Babbs Mill: Solihull tragedy which claimed four young lives still looms large a year on

The memory of the Babbs Mill tragedy still looms large a year on, writes the Editor of BirminghamWorld Fionnuala Bourke
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It’s one of the saddest news stories I’ve ever reported on.

We were among the first media outlets to publish a story about the tragedy unfolding at Babbs Mill Lake in Kingshurst, Solihull. I’d just logged off from my shift on that fateful Sunday, on 11 December 2022, when I saw a tweet from the police saying that people were in trouble at an open water location. It was a freezing day - the weather was awful.

From left, brothers Finlay and Samuel and their cousin Thomas Stewart, and Jack Johnson, who died after falling through ice at Babbs Mill Park From left, brothers Finlay and Samuel and their cousin Thomas Stewart, and Jack Johnson, who died after falling through ice at Babbs Mill Park
From left, brothers Finlay and Samuel and their cousin Thomas Stewart, and Jack Johnson, who died after falling through ice at Babbs Mill Park

I knew it was an important incident so logged back on and got a story together as fast as I could to warn others of the dangers at the lake. More information kept coming through so fast throughout the evening and into the night. It soon transpired that the people in trouble were children. There were four youngsters mentioned.  

There were so many social media posts. People had been frantically filming the boys in the hope that someone would help to rescue them as 999 calls were made. Soon the ambulance service sent updates, saying that all four children had been taken to hospital.

We then heard that the fire service had sent specialist water rescue teams - there were huge fears, which later proved unfounded, that more children could have perished in the icy waters.

Our photographers sent pictures from the scene. It was just unbelievable. The horror continued the next day as fears remained that there could have been more children who had perished in the lake.

We were told how the rescue teams worked relentlessly through the night. I heard how crews had smashed through ice to reach the boys - forming a human chain.  It soon transpired that three of the boys had died - but there was hope that the fourth had survived.

Like so many people involved with this incident, I too shed tears when I heard that he had also died. The boys were all from the local area of Kingshurst - which had been my first home when I was a toddler. Now 12 months on we pay tribute to Fin, Sam, Tom and Jack - the Babbs Mill Boys who died while trying to save each other.

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