On a bitterly cold afternoon, the lure of a frozen lake for children to play on is often too much to resist, but tragically it has cost three boys their lives and left another one fighting for his. Although the precise details of what happened are still to be established, it appears that they were all having fun, then one of them put his foot through the ice, and it seems that when others in the group went to help, the ice gave way and the lads slipped into the freezing water.
The heartbreaking incident occurred on Sunday 11 December in the Kingshurst area of Solihull, West Midlands, around 10 miles from Birmingham city centre. Three of the four children have not been officially named as of yet, but their families are said to be understandably devastated. They all suffered cardiac arrest and emergency services were unable to revive three of them, the fourth is reportedly critically ill and it remains to be seen if he can pull through.
Local beauty spot becomes a place of nightmares
Babs Mill Park is a local beauty spot in that area, which attracts the public throughout the year. Currently the UK is in the middle of an unusually cold snap which had left the picturesque lake seemingly frozen hard, which is always a magnet for kids looking for some excitement. The temperature during the afternoon was thought to be around one degree above freezing, whilst the boys aged eleven, ten, eight, and six were sliding around on the ice, as would be expected.
Boys dragged out of lake after a long time in the freezing water
Witnesses have said it looked like one of the younger boys got his foot stuck and the others went to try and help, causing the ice, which obviously was not frozen as much as it appeared, to give way and all four went into the water. Members of the public sprung into action and were trying valiantly to perform a rescue, when the emergency services arrived at the scene. One of the first police officers to enter the lake waded in and was seen to be desperately punching the ice to try and get to the boys.
Specialist firefighter water teams joined soon after and eventually the children were dragged out, with two of them taken to Heartlands Hospital in Solihull and the other two taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Sadly the three eldest could not be revived, but the youngest is still at present clinging to life, although the latest update on his condition stated that he remains extremely critical.
Fear there were two more in the lake
Amongst the confusion there were reports from onlookers that there had been six boys that entered the lake, which led to teams in boats using torches to search throughout the night, but nobody was found and there have been no missing children reported. The officer who went in first suffered mild hyperthermia, but was said to be recovering well by the following day.
Families totally devastated
The families affected are “absolutely devastated” according to Superintendent Richard Harris of West Midlands Police. He added that they were receiving support from specially trained officers, before praising the work of his team at the scene, saying that they all had entered the water with no regard for their own safety, or with any special clothing.
West Midlands Fire and Rescue Area Commander, Richard Stanton, described the deaths as “a tragedy beyond words”. He said the incident served as a reminder of how lethal frozen water can be.
Vigil held by “close-knit” community
Two days after the tragic event, a huge collection of flowers, balloons, toys and touching messages continues to grow just on the edge of the police cordon, set up a few hundred metres from where the boys fell through the partially frozen lake. The local community are said to be very close-knit and last night they held a vigil, lighting candles and saying prayers.
It is clear that everybody knows everybody else in the neighbourhood, with it is believed, many families that have lived in the vicinity for up to five generations; which just intensifies the feeling of shock, horror and togetherness.
One of the boys named
Only one of the boys has so far been named and that is ten year old Jack Johnson, who has been described as a lovely boy who would not have had any concern for his own safety, and only be focused on saving the others. Charlotte McIlmurray, Jack’s Aunt, posted on Facebook: “The 10-year-old boy is my nephew; we are just broken over this, to find out he died trying to save those other boys just sums him up; he was amazing.”
Police offer support
Superintendent Harris passed on the deepest sympathies of the force to the families and friends of the boys. He confirmed that as well as offering support their way, they were also helping the schools in the area where the children attended and supporting the pupils who are naturally badly affected by the awful tragedy.
He said that they needed to speak with more witnesses to firmly establish what had actually happened to cause such a catastrophic situation to unfold.
Witnesses recall awful screams
Witnesses from a tower block overlooking the lake spoke of hearing terrifying screams of “help”, adding that it was an “unbearable” and devastating situation. Another said the sound of children screaming would stay with them until their grave.
Bystanders were desperately imploring boys to leave “unsafe” ice
Locals had apparently been yelling at the children seconds before the incident to leave the ice, warning them that it wasn’t safe, but before they could get off, it began to crack. Bystanders said that the leg of one of the boys went in. The other three tried to help, and suddenly they were all in trouble.
Reverend believes community spirit can help
“People have said it feels like being in a movie,” were the words of Reverend Mandy Harris, from the nearby St Barnabas Church. She said that the strength of community spirit in the area would help people to pull together to mourn.
Second vigil planned
The local rotary club has cancelled its annual Santa sleigh charity event which had been due to go around Kingshurst on Wednesday and Thursday of this week; and another vigil for the boys is due to be held next Sunday 18 December.
Disbelief as community prays for little boy
The overwhelming feeling amongst everybody is one of sheer disbelief that three children have lost their lives simply by going out to play.
It is to be hoped more than anything that the little boy fighting for his life can pull through, and that the unmistakable close bond amongst everybody, can give strength and support to the families who have had their whole lives shattered, in such tragic circumstances.