An inquest into the heartbreaking death of four boys inside a West Midlands park was told that they were “feeding ducks and skimming stones” when the youngsters tragically fell into the icy lake.

The inquest into the tragedy was held on 7th July in Birmingham and the deaths were ruled as accidental. 

The shocking incident took place on Sunday 11th December 2022 when the boys ventured onto the frozen lake in Babbs Mill Park, Fordbridge Road, Kingshurst, Solihull.

The four young victims were named as Samuel Butler, aged 6, his older brother Finlay, aged 8, their cousin Thomas Stewart, aged 11, and Jack Johnson, aged 10.

The inquest heard how the boys were out having fun on a snowy winter day in the park and were feeding ducks and skimming stones when the fatal tragedy occurred.

It appears that Finlay fell into the icy lake and Jack and Thomas went to his aid. No one knows how Samuel, the youngest of the group, got into the lake. It is assumed he rushed in to help the others.

Witnesses heard the boys crying out for help and emergency services were alerted at around 2:35pm and police quickly arrived to the scene and – ignoring the threat posed by the subzero temperature – officers waded into the icy waters of the lake.

Sadly, despite the best efforts of police and paramedic crews, the four young boys lost their lives.

 Samuel Butler, aged 6WMP
Samuel Butler, aged 6

Following today’s inquest, members of the police, ambulance and fire crews spoke about the tragedy which left the nation in shock last December.

Superintendent Rich Harris, from Solihull Police, said: “Our deepest sympathies remain with the families and friends of those involved in this tragedy. We cannot comprehend the enormity of the pain they must feel and our hearts go out to them.

“We stand together with the local communities in Solihull and those across the West Midlands and further afield who we know were deeply affected by this terrible tragedy.

“I would like to pay tribute to all of those who tried to save the boys – members of the public, colleagues from the emergency services and the medical staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Heartlands Hospital.

“My own local officers were first to arrive on scene within minutes and tried so desperately to rescue the boys that afternoon with many wading into the sub-zero water up to their necks to form a human chain.

“They had no specialist equipment, but bravely smashed their way through the ice with their bare hands and batons in a bid to find the boys. Sadly, it wasn’t long before they had to make a difficult decision to leave the freezing water.

“Their efforts didn’t end there, they continued to help family members who had arrived at the water’s edge as well as worried members of the public.

“I am incredibly proud of those officers who showed such bravery and put their own safety to one side to try and save the lives of Jack, Tom, Fin and Sam.”

Finlay Butler, aged 8WMP
Finlay Butler, aged 8

James Williams, Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer, added: “There was an incredible effort to try and save Jack, Thomas, Fin and Sam. From members of the public, to the police officers who were first on scene, firefighters and to the many staff from West Midlands Ambulance Service as well as our colleagues from Midlands Air Ambulance, The Air Ambulance Service and the West Midlands Care Team.

“Everyone who responded that afternoon had one thing in their mind – how to save those four boys. It is a tragedy that the efforts of so many were unfortunately unsuccessful.

“I would like to pay tribute to all of the ambulance and hospital staff who did so much to try and get a better outcome – those who took the 999 emergency calls, the dispatchers in our control room and of course the staff who attended the incident as well as those at Heartlands and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals. I know that it has affected many of them deeply knowing that those incredible efforts were just not quite enough. We continue to support our staff as they work so hard to save lives every day that they come to work.

“On behalf of all of the ambulance service I would, once again, like to extend our deepest condolences to the families of Jack, Thomas, Fin and Sam.”

Thomas Stewart, aged 11WMP
Thomas Stewart, aged 11

Alex Shapland, Area Commander of West Midlands Fire Service, said: “As we said in the days following the deaths of Jack, Thomas, Finlay and Samuel, this was a tragedy beyond words. It was every parent, every carer, every family’s worst nightmare. Our hearts go out to everyone still trying to come to terms with the events of that day.

“I would like to acknowledge the courageous efforts of everyone at West Midlands Fire Service who were involved in the response. From our team in fire control to our firefighters, and our emergency service colleagues, who did all they possibly could for the boys.

“We wish the outcome could have been different.”

Jack Johnson, aged 10WMP
Jack Johnson, aged 10

Mr Shapland also issued a stern warning about the serious danger posed by open water: “Within days of the boys’ deaths, we and colleagues across the country were dismayed to see people still risking their lives on frozen water. If the boys’ loss was not warning enough of the dangers of open water, it’s difficult to know what is.

“That dark, freezing day in December seems a world away. We’re now just a couple of weeks from the long summer holiday.

“Even in the summer months, as tempting as it may be, open water can kill. It can be deceptively cold. Currents can be extremely strong. Please know the dangers and tell your children.

“If you do see someone in difficulty in water, know what to do. If it’s safe to, try to help them. But don’t enter the water yourself. Call 999 or 112 and ask for the fire service. You can find more water safety information on our website,

“We can’t let something like this happen again.

“The boys remain in our thoughts and prayers, as do their families, everyone who knew and loved them, and their wider community. We hope they continue to find the strength to live with their terrible loss.”

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