Parents of Louis Watkiss 'laid with him stroking his hair' as he died on SnowDome slope
ITV News Central reporter Lucy Kapasi speaks to Louis Watkiss' parents who lost their son earlier this year
The parents of a 12-year-old boy who died at an indoor ski centre in Tamworth have described how they lay with their son on the slope after he died.
Just one month after Louis Watkiss' funeral his parents, Chris and Natalie Watkiss told ITV News Central reporter Lucy Kapasi about what they have described as the worst day of their lives and how they're campaigning for change.
Their son died during a Tobogganing accident at the SnowDome on September 24, 2021.
They said: "We both just laid with him in the snow, holding a hand each stroking his hair and talking to him".
Chris and Natalie said Louis had been "excited" about attending his friends Tobogganing birthday party at the SnowDome in Tamworth, Staffordshire.
They say he'd been several times before but this would be the first time he was old enough to ride without his dad.
But just ten minutes after the party started his mum received the call to say Louis had been involved in a serious accident.
Louis' mum Natalie said: "At around 6:40 I had a call from the parents to say there's been an accident on the slope and Louis had been involved, that it was quite serious and the ambulance had been called".
"I called the SnowDome myself and they couldn't tell me anything except that the defibrillator had been removed, so obviously I knew it was serious and I got in the car and drove there."
At this point Louis's dad, Chris, says he still felt "optimistic".
"I thought 'what's the worst that could happen', it can topple over, you get a bit embarrassed and brush off the snow. It's not like we'd sent him off to abseil down some cliffs somewhere".
However, as he got closer to the SnowDome and saw the air ambulance, he said his heart sank.
"I walked up the slope which was a long, terrifying walk"
Chris followed an ambulance worker up the slope where he was greeted by his son lying in a pool of blood.
"I said 'you will keep trying won't you?' and they said yes, but I think deep down I knew it wasn't going to play out well", Chris said.
"They pronounced him dead and gave me a bit of time with him to lay with him for a bit. I gave him some kisses, held his hand and told him he was a good boy."
"I asked the police to get Natalie over, as horrific as it is I wanted her to be there with me. We walked back up the slope together and I said 'prepare yourself because it is quite a scene'.
"They had laid some towels on the blooded area so we could lay down closer to him and they stepped away then and gave us 15 to 20 minutes where we both just laid with him in the snow, holding a hand each stroking his hair and talking to him."
"He was a straight A student, he loved school, he loved learning and he was really curious about the world"
The couple describe their son as someone with a "very gentle soul" with a "stoic personality".
"He was a straight A student, he loved school, he loved learning and he was really curious about the world", Natalie said. "He had a big interest in American history for some reason, and he also played the saxophone to grade 5."
Chris added: "He played in venues across the region, which he really enjoyed and I've got no doubt he would have got to a grade 8 and done something with it potentially because he was really talented."
Chris described Louis as "gentle but very courageous as well". He reminisced about some of the trips he went on with his son, including last August when they enjoyed a few days in North Wales doing activities like slate cave mining, abseiling in the dark and canyon walking, where they slid down waterfalls and jumped off rocks.
Despite growing up with a Birmingham accent, Louis supported Chelsea football team and also enjoyed watching the cricket with his dad at Edgbaston Cricket Ground.
But Chris says Louis' true hero was his mum. "All of this adventurous stuff we did together but I think that one of his true loves was having some quiet time with his mum. He loved nothing more than going for a dog walk with his mum and having a good old natter."
"I'm really sad I'm not going to get to see Louis as a man"
As well as his distraught parents, Louis leaves behind a younger brother, five-year-old George.
Natalie says that Louis "naturally took on the role of being George's big brother" and would often take care of him after school.
"The challenge is sitting with the grief all day long and then when George comes home at 5 o'clock as a five-year-old who wants to play and wants us to be mummy and daddy, it's that switch which is really tough", she said.
"And we feel the emptiness of Louis because he would normally be home around that time as well."
The couple say one of the most heartbreaking things is hearing their five-year-old say "I'm really sad I'm not going to see Louis as a man."
Chris says George has said this on several occasions and each time "It hits like a dagger in the heart".
"This cannot happen to anyone else's child. I couldn't live with myself if it happened to anyone else"
Natalie and Chris are now campaigning for all minors to have to wear helmets when taking part in indoor snow activities.
They say they're still waiting for the postmortem results to know exactly how Louis died, however they do know it was from a head injury.
They say they welcome the SnowDome's recent change in policy to make all minors wear helmets, but it can't stop there.
"This cannot happen to anyone else's child", Natalie said. "I couldn't live with myself if it happened to anyone else."
"He was such a gentle soul. He would want us to do this. We had 12 years of him being kind and gentle and thoughtful and he made us so proud.
"I think we just need to make him proud now and leave him with a legacy of helping others in the future to avoid these things happening."