A teenage boy died after he was dared by his friends to jump over a freezing Ulley Reservoir in Rotherham.
Sam Haycock, 16, from Rotherham, Yorkshire, was with his buddies celebrating the end of year term when he jumped into Ulley Reservoir after losing a game of rock, paper, scissors.
In the afternoon of May 28 last year, he was pulled into strong currents and drowned in its deep, murky waters after “cannonballing” from a nearby bridge.
An inquest at Doncaster Coroner’s Court learned that Sam, a popular schoolboy, was unable to swim and had recently been diagnosed with autism alongside other complex medical issues.
Nichola Mundy, a senior coroner, heard that Sam and his pals had been “egging” each other to make the first jump into the freezing water, and agreed for two of them to play rock-paper-scissors to decide who would go first.
Sam lost the said game and jumped in immediately, but his friends could see he was panicking as he reached the water.
Craig Pennington, one of several adults who were there at the time, explained: “I could hear what sounded like young lads laughing and joking around. I could see four teenage boys, it sounded like they were getting more excitable.”
“It appeared like they were egging each other to jump into the water. One of the teenagers then started shouting: “Help me, help me”. I went to see what was happening not realizing the urgency until I got next to the side of the bridge. It all happened so quickly,” he added.
The court heard that one of his friends, only identified as “C” bravely leaped in to try to save his friend but was unable to do so.
Mr. Pennington added: “We assisted the teenager hanging onto the bridge, (“C”), and between us, we managed to get him out of the water.” He said that after pulling C out of the water, the boy was heard saying repeatedly: “Where’s my mate, where’s my mate?”
Conna Lee King, another bystander said: “I heard one of the teenage voices shouting: “I’m drowning, I’m drowning.”
He said he was about 30 meters from the bridge and ran towards it. He said he helped pull C out. He said: “He asked me to go back in for his mate. I replied saying I would go in but I couldn’t swim. It all happened so fast.”
A 999 call saw the emergency services arrive at the scene and a firefighter bravely leaped in to try to find Sam but by then it was too late and his body was recovered later. The court also heard that a throw line was unsuccessfully used to try to rescue Sam.
Ms. Mundy concluded that Sam died from drowning and his death was an accident. She said: “Because he didn’t have any fear or sense of danger he said he would jump in first.”
“The temperature of the water would have been a significant shock to Sam and to Sam’s system that would have sent him into panic. His friend’s efforts to save him were valiant. His friend was very brave but it simply was not possible for him to save his friend despite his best efforts.”
Kevin Burke, countryside and ecology manager for Rotherham Council, said there were problems with antisocial behavior in the area. He said the water was 26-30 feet at its deepest and although the first few inches would be relatively warm once you got below the first foot it would be very cold indeed.
Mr. Burke said the antisocial behavior was a “disgrace” but he had been working with Sam’s father Simon on Operation Keep Safe to improve safety standards around the reservoir
The hearing was attended by four members of the Haycock family including his father and Sam’s mum Gaynor who clutched a photograph of her son with his beloved pet dog Ruby for the duration of the proceedings.
19-year-old Khizar Hayat died in the same reservoir just a few months later in September.
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