Solihull tragedy: Causes of deaths revealed for boys who fell into frozen lake

An initial inquest into the deaths of four boys who fell into a frozen lake has found they died from the effects of drowning.

Samuel and Finlay Butler, aged six and eight, and their 11-year-old cousin Thomas Stewart died after the tragedy in Solihull in the West Midlands.

Ten-year-old Jack Johnson also lost his life in the incident at Babbs Mill Park earlier this month.

An initial inquest was held into their deaths in Birmingham on Monday.

It was told three of the boys were rescued after 22 minutes in the water, while a fourth was pulled from the lake after 31 minutes.

Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt described the circumstances as a “devastating tragedy”, as she opened and adjourned the four inquests.

She said: “I think, in respect, it is fair to say they very sadly died from the effect of drowning.”

Ms Hunt heard evidence from Detective Inspector Jim Edmonds, of West Midlands Police, who gave details of how people initially raised the alarm and the subsequent “heroic efforts” of the emergency services to save the boys.

Mr Edmonds said: “West Midlands Police first contact at 2.34pm on Sunday December 11, reporting four children playing on a frozen lake at Babbs Mill Park had fallen through the ice, into the water.

“Further calls were received from other members of the public, also reporting children had fallen in to the water, but with some variance as to the number of children involved.

“Emergency services responded at pace and at arrival it became quite apparent this was a major incident and there were numerous members of the public at the location, reporting children had tragically fallen under the water.”

Turning to the rescues, Mr Edmonds said: “The first three boys were located and brought to the bank at 2.56pm, the same day, and approximately nine minutes later a fourth was rescued from the water.

“Emergency CPR was performed on the children at the scene and they were taken to local hospitals where they received further treatment,” he said, adding the boys were at this stage identified.”

Jack and Thomas died on the same day of the tragedy, while Finlay died the following day, he said.

Six-year-old Samuel died several days after the incident in Babbs Mill Park.

Flowers and tributes near to Babbs Mill Park in Kingshurst, Solihull, after the deaths of three boys aged eight, 10 and 11 who fell through ice into a lake in the West Midlands

“A police investigation is ongoing on behalf of the coroner to establish the facts of the boys’ attendance at the lake and also how they fell into the water,” said Mr Edmonds.

Setting an inquest to be heard on July 6, next year, Ms Hunt said: “The scope of the inquest will be to look at the circumstances leading to the deaths and the cause of death.”

She added the inquest would hear a pen portrait of each little boy from a family member, overviews from each of the three emergency services involved about their responses, together with evidence of the hospital care given.

Having set out the initial cause of death as drowning, she added “no post-mortem would be required – to preserve the dignity and respect of each little boy”.

Tributes at a makeshift shrine near the Babbs Mill Lake, in Kinghurst, Solihull. (Jacob King/PA)

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