Babbs Mill Lake boys died from drowning after playing on frozen water

A still of the four victims Samuel Butler, Finlay Butler, Thomas Stewart, Jack Johnson.
Finlay Butler (eight), Samuel Butler (six), Thomas Stewart (11) and Jack Johnson (10) all died after falling through the ice on Babbs Mill Lake.

Four boys who died after falling through the ice of a frozen lake in Solihull died from drowning, an inquest hearing has been told.

Brothers Samuel Butler, six and Finlay Butler, eight died with their cousin Thomas Stewart, who was 11, and 10-year-old Jack Johnson.

The inquest heard police were called on Sunday 11 December to reports that four who had been playing on the ice at Babbs Mill Lake in Kingshurst had fallen through.

All four were pulled from the water after an "heroic effort" from emergency services and members of the public. They were rushes to hospital, but all could not be saved.

The deaths of Finlay, Thomas and Jack were confirmed on Monday while Samuel died in hospital on Wednesday.

Tributes to the boys have grown throughout the week Credit: ITV News

Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt heard that Jack, from Kingshurst, and Thomas, of Shard End, Birmingham, were identified by their parents at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, and the two brothers; Finlay and Samuel, also both from Kingshurst, were identified at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

On opening the inquests, the coroner 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.

She described the events as a "devastating tragedy" as she heard from a police officer about what happened that afternoon.

Detective Inspector Jim Edmonds, of West Midlands Police, who gave details of how people initially raised the alarm.

He 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."

On the rescue efforts, DI 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.

"Despite the heroic efforts of everybody involved, all four boys have sadly passed away."

He also told the coroner that Jack and Thomas died later on 11 December, Finlay the following day, and his brother Samuel on Wednesday 14 December.

He added that "all children involved have been accounted for."

"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."

Police and fire and rescue search teams spent a number of days at the lake Credit: ITV News

The coroner set inquests to be heard on 6 July next year, saying; "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.

"I think, in respect, it is fair to say they very sadly died from the effect of drowning."

She added "no post-mortem would be required - to preserve the dignity and respect of each little boy".

Louise Hunt also addressed the boys' families, none of whom were physically present in the hearing. She said; "I'd like to offer you all my sincere condolences."

"Your boys' deaths are a devastating tragedy for you all and it is difficult for us all to comprehend the pain and grief you all must feel at this terrible time."

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

Since the boys' deaths, the community has rallied around. Tributes laid near the lake have grown throughout the last week, and at a vigil over the weekend, hundreds more people brought candles, bouquets of flowers, children's toys and balloons to lay down.

Nearby St Barnabas' Church also had a commemoration to the boys at their annual carol service, where candles were lit and a moment of silence was observed.

An online fundraising effort to "ease the worry of the financial costs" for the family has topped £70,000.