Solihull lake incident: two brothers and their cousin have been named as victims of icy lake tragedy
Finlay Butler, eight, his brother Sam Butler, six, and their cousin Thomas Stewart, 11, had gone to feed the ducks when the ice gave way and they plunged in.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Three of the young boys who died after falling into an icy lake in Solihull were related.
Finlay Butler, eight, his brother Sam Butler, six, and their cousin Thomas Stewart, 11, had gone to feed the ducks at Babbs Mill Lake, Solihull, near Birmingham, on Sunday. The ice gave way, sending them plunging into the freezing water.
The fourth victim has been identified as 10-year-old Jack Johnson who fell into the lake after rushing to try to help the others. They had been pulled from the water by emergency crews, including a police officer who tried to punch through ice during the rescue efforts. West Midlands Police said nobody else had been reported missing.
The families of Finlay, Sam and Thomas said they were “devastated”. Parents of both boys commented: “As a family we are devastated at the loss of our beautiful boys Tom, Fin and Sam in such tragic circumstances. We would like to thank the emergency services for all they did in rescuing the boys and to the community for their support, it has been overwhelming. We would like to pass on our condolences to Jack’s family at this very sad time and ask for privacy from the media to begin to grieve.”
While the older brother of Thomas paid tribute: “Thomas was such a lively little soul, he had a big heart for such a young kid and he was so beautiful. He loved being outside playing with his mates. I love you Tom, big bro will take care of the family and I will see you soon. Make sure you keep practising on warzone and get a win, will you?”
He also paid tribute to his cousin, Finlay, before the news Samuel, had also died, writing: “Can’t forget about my dinosaur man Fin, he loved dinosaurs so much and always showing me new things he built on Minecraft and all the new stuff he learnt on it. Gonna miss you little man.”
Floral tributes, balloons, soft toys and lighted candles were left by mourners at a vigil held in Kingshurst, Solihull, on Monday night (12 December) after the incident which has devastated the community.
West Midlands Police said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of those involved in this tragedy. We cannot comprehend the enormity of the pain they must feel and our hearts go out to them.
“Specialist officers remain in contact with the family and we will issue further information as soon as we can. The searches have been completed and the scene of the incident at the lake will be lifted this evening. It comes after snow and freezing frost covered much of the UK over the weekend, with the severe conditions set to continue over the next few days, and temperatures reaching as low as minus 15C.
What happened in Solihull?
Emergency services were called to the nature park in Solihull at 2.36pm on Sunday after the children fell into the water. Reports from the scene and social media indicated that children had been playing on the ice and had fallen through into the lake.
Members of the public and police officers initially went into the chilly waters to try to get the youngsters out, before the children were reached by specialist water rescue-trained firefighters who got the group to safety. Temperatures are thought to have plunged to 1C (34F) in the area at the time of the incident, falling to -3C (26F) overnight.
Those pulled from the water were given immediate life support by ambulance and fire service personnel before being rushed to two Birmingham hospitals; Birmingham Children’s and Heartlands, where they all arrived in critical condition.
Cameron McVittie, a tactical commander with West Midlands Ambulance Service, said the four children pulled from the lake were taken to hospitals in Birmingham with an advanced care team and were in a critical condition. He said: “Two were taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and two to Heartlands in Birmingham. All four children were in critical condition on arrival.”
Searches of the lake had continued to establish whether anyone else fell into the water, following reports that as many as six children may have been involved. However, searches are now completed.
Superintendent Richard Harris said his officers went into the water to rescue the youngsters, adding: “Police officers did go into the water. They were joined by other members of the other emergency services. Some of the officers went in waist-deep.
“One of my officers was trying to punch through the ice to actually rescue the children themselves. That officer, as a result of that, had some mild hypothermia yesterday. I’m pleased to say that he’s now been released from hospital and he’s absolutely fine.”
Families affected by the tragedy are “absolutely devastated”, Mr Harris said. He said: “Also this time of year, it’s on the run-up to Christmas, so close to the event itself, also adds to that tragedy. But as you can imagine the families are absolutely devastated, which is why we’re doing our very best to support the families.”
Richard Stanton, West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service area commander, told a press conference at the scene at Babbs Mill Park in Solihull on Monday: “Yesterday’s incident is a stark reminder to us all of the dangers of open water, especially during the winter months.
“Frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can look picturesque but they can be lethal and there are no greater warnings of this than yesterday’s tragic events. We would ask parents and carers to remind their children of the dangers of ice and why they must keep off it. Please help us to avoid this from happening again.”
What’s been said about the tragedy?
England international Tyrone Mings visited a makeshift memorial at the lake. Mings and fellow Aston Villa player and club captain John McGinn arrived on Wednesday to look at the carpet of floral tributes to the boys.
Mings, who plays at centre-back for the Birmingham-based club and has earned 17 caps for England, said: “It was a personal decision to pay our respects. I think it’s impacted the whole city. We felt it was important to come down on a personal level just to show that support.
“Sometimes, as we’ve seen with other things that have happened across the city, there are things more important than football. We felt it was important to come down here, show our respects and show we were thinking about everything that has happened and the parents that are affected by it. We feel that pain too.”
Mings and McGinn spent a few moments in silence looking at the hundreds of tributes, cards, bouquets, children’s toys and balloons which have been laid at the foot of a tree next to Babbs Mill Park since tragedy unfolded in the nearby waters on Sunday.
The tragedy has united the city’s rival football clubs, Aston Villa and Birmingham City, whose head coach John Eustace on Tuesday laid a wreath at the memorial on behalf of the Blues.
McGinn said: “We were in Dubai when we heard the news and I thought of my nieces and nephews, and the players thought about their kids. It was certainly moving for us. Nothing can sum up what the families will be thinking, what the community will be thinking. But it just shows what a close-knit community it is.”
Later on Wednesday, staff from nearby John Henry Newman Catholic College and Kingshurst Primary School both spent a few minutes looking at the flowers and reading messages on cards including heartfelt tributes to the “Babbs Mill Boys”.