Three young children died and a fourth has been left clinging to life after falling through thin ice into a lake in central England as temperatures plunged this weekend.
According to officials, police in full uniform jumped into the frigid water and tried to break through the ice with their bare hands to pull the boys, ages 8, 10 and 11, to safety just minutes after getting an emergency call.
The tragedy unfolded Sunday afternoon in Babbs Mill Park, a nature preserve near Solihull, about nine miles east of Birmingham. The children were spotted walking on the ice shortly before they fell through. Their reason for being on the lake was not immediately clear, and it was unknown if they were under adult supervision at the time.
The children all suffered cardiac arrest from the freezing water and were rushed to hospital, but three could not be revived. The fourth boy, aged 6, remains in critical condition. None of their names has been released.
Temperatures in the area were at around 34 degrees at the time of the incident and dropped to 26 degrees overnight.
“The boys’ deaths are a tragedy beyond words,” Richard Stanton, a representative of the local fire and rescue service, said at a news conference Monday. “Yesterday’s incident is a stark reminder to us all of the dangers of open water, especially during the winter months. Frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can look picturesque, but they can be lethal.”
Emergency workers searched through the night and into Monday for two other children under the age of 12 who were reportedly with the group, though it is uncertain whether there were additional victims.
“It’s important to stress … we’ve had no contact from anybody suggesting there’s anybody else missing, but until we’re 100% certain we will be carrying on searches throughout the course of today,″ West Midlands Police Superintendent Richard Harris said.
First responders were called to the scene just after 2.30 p.m. local time Sunday, and media reported that bystanders had gone into the water to try to help the boys.
Harris said one of his officers was treated for mild hypothermia after rushing into the lake to try to save the children, but had been released from hospital and was fine.
“One of my officers was trying to punch through the ice to actually rescue the children,” Harris told reporters. “The officers went straight in, without regard for their own safety. They entered the water in just a normal trousers and shoes.”
Firefighters and specialist water rescue crews then arrived on the scene and managed to pull the boys out.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was “devastating news for the family and friends” of the children who died.
“This is a tragic incident,” he said. “The prime minister’s thoughts are with them and obviously he passes his thanks to the emergency services who are continuing to work and provide support.”
With Post wires