‘TRAGIC IS AN OVERUSED WORD, BUT THIS RE­ALLY IS A TRAGEDY’

Dad of Ryan Evans backs water safety cam­paign after son’s death

The Sentinel - - NEWS - Kathie Mcinnes kather­[email protected]­plc.com

THE dad of teenager Ryan Evans is urg­ing fam­i­lies to back a water safety cam­paign to pre­vent other par­ents hav­ing to suf­fer the heartache of getting a ‘knock on the door’ from po­lice.

Glynn Evans spoke out fol­low­ing an in­quest yes­ter­day into his 13-yearold son’s death, which heard how Ryan had been try­ing to swim across West­port Lake when he got into dif­fi­cul­ties.

The Hay­wood Academy stu­dent had ven­tured into the mid­dle of the lake with two friends. As the other boys shouted for help, they tried to keep Ryan upright. But he slipped un­der­neath the sur­face. His body was found more than 48 hours later – on June 27 – after a mas­sive search op­er­a­tion.

North Stafford­shire coro­ner Ian Smith warned how the case high­lights the dan­gers of swim­ming in open water. He said: “These are not safe places to swim if you’re not an ex­tremely well qual­i­fied swim­mer with good col­leagues to sup­port you and ap­pro­pri­ate life­sav­ing equip­ment. Con­clud­ing it was an cci­den­tal death, he added: “Tragic is an overused word, but this re­ally is a tragedy.”

The hear­ing was told Ryan and a group of friends had ar­ranged to meet ar the lake after school on that hot sum­mer’s day. Ryan called at his home in Leonard Street, Burslem, to get changed. Mr Evans re­called: “He grabbed a choco­late bar, some crisps and a drink and he asked me to help him get his bike out. I told him to be back for tea.” He had no idea his son was plan­ning to swim in the lake.

De­tec­tive Con­sta­ble Matthew Jones, who pieced to­gether the move­ments of the young peo­ple, said: “They got to the fish­ing point, stripped down to their box­ers and just jumped in. They were gen­er­ally hav­ing a laugh, mess­ing about in the water. There were prob­a­bly five or six of them in the water. It was at that point that three of them de­cided to go fur­ther into the lake.”

The two boys who joined Ryan, who can­not be named for le­gal rea­sons, de­scribed how as they waded out, the ground un­der­neath started to change from ‘mush to bits of con­crete’. DC Jones added: “It was three lads who went swim­ming. Trag­i­cally, only two came back.”

Trevor Ker­shaw was walk­ing along the lake­side at 4.10pm when he re­alised some­thing was wrong. He said: “There were three peo­ple’s heads on top of the water. Peo­ple could see they were strug­gling in the water and two of them had started swim­ming back.”

Mr Ker­shaw ran to­wards the lake, where he heard shouts for help. Oth­ers wit­nesses called 999.

DC Jones told the in­quest a huge search op­er­a­tion was launched in­volv­ing all three emer­gency ser­vices, spe­cial­ist div­ing teams, the air am­bu­lance, a po­lice he­li­copter and oth­ers.

A diver even­tu­ally found Ryan’s body after an ae­rial search re­vealed some­thing in the water.

A post-mortem exam found he died ‘due to im­mer­sion’ – drown­ing.

Stoke-on-trent City Coun­cil con­firmed there were four signs at strate­gic en­trances to the beauty spot, warn­ing peo­ple about the dan­gers of swim­ming. But DC Jones said he re­traced the route last month that Ryan had taken and could only see one fire ser­vice no­tice – put up after the boy’s death.

Speak­ing after the hear­ing, Mr Evans said: “I’m hop­ing to do a cam­paign next year to get more chil­dren to have swim­ming les­sons.”

He echoed the coro­ner’s calls, urg­ing oth­ers not to ven­ture into open water. Sum­ming up his son, he said: “Ryan was clever, po­lite and had lots of friends.”

FAM­ILY: Ryan Evans, left, with brother Kieran and dad Glynn. In­set, Ryan in his Hay­wood Academy uni­form.

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