Teenager died playing in flood waters

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The Independent Online

A teenager died after getting trapped in flood waters which he and his friends were playing in, it emerged today.

Max Sullivan-Webb, 17, also known as Max Weeden, of Judds Close, Witney, Oxfordshire, died after getting pinned against a grid on a storm drain by surging torrents.

Fire fighters said they rescued another boy, who had being trying, in vain, to help Max lift his head above the water.

The second boy spent the night recovering in hospital. It is understood he left hospital this morning.

The tragedy happened between 8pm and 8.30pm yesterday in a field off Eastfield Road, Witney.

The spot is a well-known haunt for local children, who congregate there to play in the water when it floods, residents said.

A third boy, who was playing with Max and his other friend, ran for help when

he realised the seriousness of the situation.

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said the boy ran up to him in a very agitated state, saying: "My mate, my mate, he's dead.

"He got trapped in the water and could not get out."

The neighbour said, after 999 was called, the boy told him that Max had fallen face down into the water and the pressure had pushed him against a grille on a drainage tunnel.

"The second boy got into the water with Max and was trying to support him and lift his head above the water but he could not," the neighbour said.

"The water was pushing him against the grille. It was just too strong."

He added: "People have been going up to that field for decades to mess about in the water. It floods two or three times a year here."

Neighbours said up to 50 school children were playing in the flood water spilling onto Eastfield Road yesterday afternoon.

Rosemary Rose, 67, said: "We were telling them to get out of the water because it was dangerous but they took no notice."

Barry Clack, who lives nearby, said: "This drain floods two or three times a year and the Environment Agency never seems to get it fixed.

"It needs overspill facilities. If they had fixed these drains after last year's floods, which damaged many houses in this area, then who knows, we may not have had this death yesterday.

"The drains are just completely inadequate. Hopefully this might prompt the authorities to actually do something."

Cheryl Frost, visited Eastfield Road today with her son Matthew to drop flowers for Max.

She said: "Matt was playing with Max and the boys yesterday but I said to him that he was not allowed to go in the deep water because it was dangerous and polluted.

"I'm grateful because it could have been Matt in that drain. He played in that field all the time but not any more."

Neighbours said the boys involved in the incident attended Wood Green School in Witney.

Oxfordshire fire service described the death as a "complete tragedy".

One firefighter said crews arrived at the scene when Max had already spent 20 minutes under water. He said: "When we arrived he was submerged under the water. It took two crews to release him because of the pressure of the water."

Max lived with his mother Katy and her husband Tim on Judds Close, Witney.

A next-door neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "This is such a shock, absolutely terrible."

A tribute left at Eastfield Road read: "To Max, I can't believe this has happened... We'll miss you... Rest in peace."

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