‘TRAGIC IS AN OVERUSED WORD, BUT THIS REALLY IS A TRAGEDY’
Dad of Ryan Evans backs water safety campaign after son’s death
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.