Sea slip tragedy of four-year-old boy Dylan Cecil off coast of Burnham-on-Sea


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The Independent Online

The devastated family of a four-year-boy who went missing in the sea while on holiday have described him as a “bubbly, lovely” child.

Dylan Cecil's parents frantically tried to rescue him after he slipped off a jetty into the water in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, but were unable to reach him.

The youngster had wanted to get a closer look at the sea and went onto the jetty with his parents, Rachel McCollum and Darren Cecil, and his two younger sisters, aged one and three, at about 6pm last night.

The family, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, were visiting Ms McCollum's parents who live locally, and who today said they could not have wished for a better grandson.

Following Dylan's parents' desperate efforts to save their son the couple had to be pulled from the water by passers-by and treated for water ingestion.

The water off the jetty is impossible to see through because of the mud flats and the strong spring tide currents would have made it very difficult to swim back to shore, the coastguard said.

Dylan's close family have spent the day at the scene, anxiously waiting for news.

But after searching late into last night the coastguard confirmed this morning the search for Dylan, who was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, had become a body recovery operation.

Stood next to a growing pile of floral tributes, Dylan's grandparents said they wanted to thank everyone involved in the rescue effort.

Jackie McCollum said: "Rachel, our daughter, and Darren came up Friday with the kids, they were going back today and we were going to have the kids until Friday.

"We always had them for a week and would spoil them and Dylan always called us seaside nanny and granddad.

"He loved coming up to see us, he loved the seaside. He was a bubbly, bubbly, lovely kid. He was our only grandson. We've got five granddaughters, but he was our only grandson."

David McCollum said: "We couldn't have wished for a grandson any better."

He added: "I just want to give thanks to everybody who has helped in the search mission and tried to get Dylan back for us. I can't say thank you enough really.

"We're all just devastated."

Four coastguard rescue teams, four lifeboats, the coastguard sector manager, police and the RAF helicopter were all involved in the search and rescue operation, which was launched after a member of the public witnessed the boy's parents' attempts to rescue their son.

The search operation went on into this afternoon on a smaller scale after searches in the water were stopped.

Severn Sector Coastguard manager Tristam Newey said: "The conditions on the jetty are that it would have been impossible to see the edge and that may have led to this accident occurring.

"Certainly, at the time, the water on either side of the jetty was quite deep and, combined with the vast current flow, once you've fallen into the water it is very difficult to swim back to shore."

The scene was cordoned off by police last night, but re-opened this afternoon as the search operation was scaled down.

Superintendent Keith McCoubrey, of Avon and Somerset Police, said the family had been left "traumatised" by the "tragic" incident.

He said the family had been down on the beach playing with their three young children.

"At some point, Dylan wanted to go and see the sea, get a bit closer to it, and they went out on the jetty here, and unfortunately Dylan slipped off the edge and went under the water," Supt McCoubrey said.

"At this time of year the tides here are very fast-flowing and the undercurrents are quite strong; unfortunately Dylan didn't re-surface.

"Both his mum and dad entered the water immediately to try and recover Dylan, without success.

"The parents were in the water for quite a few minutes and they actually had to be pulled from the water by passers-by.

"At that point a large-scale search and rescue operation was launched, co-ordinated here by my colleagues in the Coastguard."

He added: "There's not much one can say in such tragic circumstances apart from the fact our hearts and minds and our sympathies are with the family at this time.

"They have been devastated by what has happened, traumatised by the whole incident and have asked that the media respect their privacy at this difficult time."