Three boys have died after falling through ice into a freezing lake in Solihull, police have confirmed. The boys aged eight, 10 and 11 were three of four children fighting for their lives in hospital after the tragic incident at Babbs Mill Lake in Kinghurst on Sunday afternoon.
A fourth boy, aged six, remains in a critical condition in hospital. Meanwhile, rescue teams are continuing to search the freezing waters however police have stressed they have had “no contact from anybody” to suggest there were any other people missing - there had been earlier reports that up to six children entered the water on Sunday.
“We have to be 100% certain that there is no one else possibly in the water at this time,” said Superintendent Richard Harris, of West Midlands Police. “It’s important to stress though that we’ve had no contact from anybody suggesting that there’s anybody else missing but until we’re 100% certain we will be carrying on searches throughout the course of today.”
The four children are understood to have been playing on the ice when it cracked and gave way beneath them, causing them to plunge into the water. Several of their friends then reportedly ran onto the lake in a bid to help before falling in themselves.
Two of the youngsters were taken to Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital and two to Birmingham Children’s Hospital in a critical condition. Three of the children have now died.
A candlelit vigil was held near the scene of the tragedy which was attended by more than 100 members of the devastated Solihull community. Dozens of floral tributes, balloons and candles were laid at the base of a tree in Babbs Mill Park to remember the boys.
One of the youngsters has been named as 10-year-old Jack Johnson, who was described to Sky News as a “hero” after he jumped into the lake to try and save other children.
St Anthony’s Primary School, where Jack attended, has reopened today (Tuesday, December 12) and is offering support to grieving pupils. The school wrote on social media: “We will reopen tomorrow for pupils. Never has our motto being more meaningful, ‘actions speak louder than words’.
“We will support our children and families the best we can.”
West Midlands Fire Service chief Richard Stanton said last night that it was now a ‘recovery, rather than rescue’ mission as the search for the two missing children continues. He said: "When the fire service arrived on scene we were made aware that there were up to six people potentially in the water. After rescuing the four children we are continuing search and rescue operations in the whole lake to confirm whether there are any more in the water.
"The specialist medical advice we have been given is that given the temperature, the age of those believed to have entered the water, and the time they have been there, that this would no longer be a search and rescue operation."
St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School located close to the lakeis shut this morning. A spokesperson for the school said: “School will be closed for pupils due to the incident at Babbs Mill. Please keep all those affected in your prayers at this difficult time.”
Local MP Saqib Bhatti wrote on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with the whole community and I pray for all those that are affected. I am being kept updated as the situation develops.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) said they sent five ambulances, four paramedic officers and the Hazardous Area Response Team,to the scene. They also sent a MERIT trauma doctor and critical care paramedic, West Midlands Care Team, a critical care car and three critical care paramedics from Midlands Air Ambulance.
Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor, tweeted last night: "Deeply concerning the incident in Solihull tonight. My thoughts are with all the families affected and our incredibly brave emergency service workers who have responded to such a distressing scene.”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “Obviously this is devastating news for the family and friends of those who have died, this is a tragic incident.
“The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with them and obviously he passes his thanks to the emergency services who are continuing to work and provide support.”