Four boys who died after falling in ice drowned, inquest finds

Four boys who died after falling through the ice of a frozen lake have drowned, an inquest hearing has heard.

Brothers Samuel and Finlay Butler, their cousin Thomas Stewart and a fourth boy, Jack Johnson, were “playing” when they fell into Babbs Mill Lake on Sunday, December 11, the inquest was heard.

The four children were all in cardiac arrest when rescue teams pulled them out of the water and emergency services transported them to hospital.

Two of the boys, Jack, 10, Thomas, 11, died later that daywhile Finlay died the following day.

Six-year-old Samuel was taken to hospital in critical condition but died three days later on December 14.

During the weekend, hundreds of people gathered for a vigil to a makeshift memorial near the stage to honor the boys.

An initial inquest hearing, held in Birmingham on Monday, found three of the boys were rescued after 22 minutes in the water, while a fourth was pulled from the lake after 31 minutes.

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

A full inquest is due to be heard in July, with Ms Hunt saying the hearing will consider the ‘circumstances leading to the death and the cause of death’.

She addressed her closing remarks to the families of the boys, none of whom were physically present in court, and said: “I would like to offer you my deepest condolences

“The death of your boys is a devastating tragedy for all of you and it is difficult for all of us to understand the pain and grief you must all be feeling at this terrible time.

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“In due course, I hope the investigation will help you understand what happened, including the valiant attempts by the emergency services to save the boys.”

West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Jim Edmonds, who gave details of how people initially sounded the alarm, also praised the subsequent ‘heroic efforts’ of the emergency services to save the boys.

He also told the inquest that emergency services responded “at pace” after receiving initial reports.

Last week, someone close to Jack warned the children “not to take any risks in the open water” following the tragedy.

The parent, who asked not to be named, told Sky News: “The children were playing on the ice, they shouldn’t have done it, but the children will be children. They saw no harm and the danger, it was just fun for them.

“We would hate for another family to go through this, please talk to your kids and tell them not to take any chances in the open water.”

The parent, who approached Sky News, called the boys who died in the incident ‘little princes’.

Meanwhile, in a statement released by West Midlands Police, the parents of Thomas, Finlay and Samuel said: “As a family we are devastated by the loss of our beautiful boys Tom, Fin and Sam in circumstances so tragic.”

Thomas’ older brother paid tribute to him and his cousin in a statement, writing: “Thomas was such a lively little soul, he had a big heart for such a young child and he was so handsome. He loved play outside with his friends.

“I love you Tom, big brother will take care of the family and I’ll see you soon.”

Paying tribute to his cousin, Finlay, he wrote: “I can’t forget my dinosaur man Fin, he loved dinosaurs so much and always shows me new things he built on Minecraft and all the new things he learned on it. I’m going to miss you little man.”

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