Babbs Mill: Community remembers four boys who died in icy lake on anniversary of their deaths

West Midlands Fire Service's Chief Fire Officer Wayne Brown paid tribute to the victims of the Babbs Mill Lake tragedy at a carol service on Sunday night

Four boys who died after falling through the ice on a frozen lake in Solihull are being remembered a year on from their deaths.

Brothers Samuel Butler, who was six, and Finlay Butler, eight, died along with their 11-year-old cousin Thomas Butler, and another boy - Jack Johnson, who was 10, on 11 December 2022 at Babbs Mill Lake in Kingshurst.

In a carol service at St Martin-in-the-bullring on Sunday 10 December, West Midlands Fire Service paid tribute to the boys.

Addressing the congregation, Chief Fire Officer Wayne Brown said: "I want to acknowledge that we were unable to hold these events last year, because of the tragic events that happened at Babbs Mill Lake, where unfortunately four young boys lost their lives.

"That event impacted our whole community, our staff who responded, and the families of the four boys will be in our thoughts and prayers at this time."

Officers scouring Babbs Mill Lake on the day of the tragedy last year. Credit: ITV News Central

West Midlands Fire Service is using the anniversary of the boys' deaths to renew their message: "Think twice, stay off the ice."

Area manager, Martin Ward-White, attended the scene at Babbs Mill Lake last year. He remembers arriving and knowing "it was not going to have a happy ending."

Mr Ward-White said: "I got out of my car and walked down towards the lakeside, and that's when I got an appreciation for the level of risk that some of our firefighters and crews had exposed themselves to when they were rescuing Tom, Jack, Sam and Fin.

"We're asking schools, parents, carers, guardians to have these conversations with children prior to them going on holiday and reinforcing that message of staying off the ice.

"Likewise with pet owners as well, keeping pets under control around frozen lakes because we know that when pets get themselves into trouble, often the owner will go in to help.

"The reality is is if an animal goes into ice, the ice isn't strong enough to hold a person.

"We can't change what happened 12 months ago but we can stop it happening again."

If you fall through ice:

  • Stay as calm as you can and shout for help

  • Lie flat, spread your arms across the surface and try to pull yourself across the ice to shore

  • If the ice is too thin, try to break your way through towards the bank

  • If you can't escape, stay as still as possible, with your arms by your sides and legs together to conserve your heat and energy

  • Once you're out of the water, go to the hospital immediately for a check up

If someone else falls through ice:

  • Shout for help, call 999 and ask the emergency services (fire service for inland water, otherwise the coastguard)

  • Encourage the casualty to keep calm and try to reach them with a rope, pole, tree branch or clothes tied together whilst lying flat on the bank

  • If they are too far to reach, try sliding them a floating object, (like a football or large plastic bottle) but DO NOT try to rescue them yourself

  • Keep reassuring them whilst waiting for the emergency services to arrive

More information on how to stay vigilant in icy conditions can be found here.

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