Police officer punched through ice to try and rescue children as three die in frozen lake

Families are ‘absolutely devastated’, police chief says

Zoe Tidman
Monday 12 December 2022 21:08 GMT
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Solihull lake: Police say 'officers punched through ice' to save children in frozen lake

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Rescuers punched through ice on a frozen lake in Solihull during in a bid to rescue children, it emerged yesterday as police confirmed three boys, aged eight, 10 and 11, died after falling into the water.

Another child – a six-year-old boy – remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Superintendent Richard Harris from West Midlands Police described efforts to rescue the children from the lake in Babbs Mill Park in the town near Birmingham.

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“Police officers did go into the water,” he told a press conference.

“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.”

Search efforts continued the day after the tragedy
Search efforts continued the day after the tragedy (Getty Images)

Supt Harris said police have not had contact with anyone to suggest others were still missing but will continue searching on Monday “to make 100 per cent certain”.

Families affected by the tragedy in Solihull are “absolutely devastated”, Supt Harris said, adding: “Also this time of year, it’s on the run-up to Christmas, so close to the event itself, [it] also adds to that tragedy.”

“Obviously we’re abiding by their requests at the moment as to how much information that the families want us to make available to the media, so we’re doing everything we possibly can to support them,” he added.

West Midlands Fire Service area commander Richard Stanton said the deaths of the three boys was a “stark reminder” of the dangers of open water.

Police have continued to search the scene in Babbs Mill Park in Kingshurst, Solihull
Police have continued to search the scene in Babbs Mill Park in Kingshurst, Solihull (PA Wire)

“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,” he told the press conference.

“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.”

Supt Harris said there are a number of witnesses that officers still want to speak to and appealed for anyone with information to contact the force.

Local residents have paid tribute to the boys who died in the incident
Local residents have paid tribute to the boys who died in the incident (PA)

One local resident, who did not want to be named, described the moment she heard the tragedy unfolding. “I heard the sound of children screaming and I knew it was bad. That sound will go with me to my grave,” she said.

Councillor Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “I know the people of Kingshurst are a close-knit community and I am sure they will be supporting each other during this difficult time.

“We will be providing help and resources today and in the weeks ahead to try and assist where we can.”

Dozens of local people, including many schoolchildren, placed flowers in tribute to the three boys at the base of a tree near the northern entrance to the park.

Among the tributes was one from West Midlands mayor Andy Street, with a card attached reading: “Such a tragedy. My heart goes out to the families who have lost their most precious gift.”

A group of firefighters wearing protective overalls placed their own floral tribute, bearing a white ribbon arranged as a flower.

A card attached to the flowers read: “With deepest sympathy. Rest in peace boys. Love from Sheldon Red Watch.”

The seven firefighters paused for a few moments of reflection before leaving the scene, having been applauded by several local people for their efforts to save the youngsters.

Additional reporting by agencies

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