A TEENAGE boy described the devastating moment he let go of his younger brother’s arm and watched as he was swept away in a river – drowning on his eighth birthday.
Pontefract youngster Aaron Page went to Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire on June 5 last year with his parents Alan and Katrina and brother Josh, now 14, for a family day out.
The family had planned a barbecue at their home in Monkhill Drive, but Mr Page’s brother persuaded them to join him at Bolton Abbey, an inquest at Skipton Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday.
Giving evidence, Josh said he tried to save his brother’s life but lost his grip when he slipped on some rocks.
He said he and Aaron had walked into the River Wharfe together at around 3pm, shortly after arriving at the beauty spot. They were standing on rocks about a foot from the riverbank, ankle deep in the water, when his brother lost his footing.
He said: “Aaron walked into the water and slipped. As I tried to pull him out, I fell and I let him go.
“He was floating off and saying ‘help me’. I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Heartbroken Josh said they were standing on “big rocks” in a shallow part of the river where he could still see the bottom when Aaron slipped.
Josh’s screams for help were heard by Andrea Campbell, who had been with her family on the other side of the river, and she dived into the water to try to save Aaron.
She told the inquest: “I heard someone shouting ‘dad’ and I looked and there was a little boy in the water.
“He was struggling. I ran straight into the water and swam as fast as I could, I could just see his head above the water. But as I got closer, I could see I was too late. He had just gone under.”
The boys’ father, Alan Page, said he ran into the water when he heard Ms Campbell screaming, not realising it was his own son who had gone under until Josh ran towards him shouting “it’s Aaron, he’s gone under”.
Mr Page said: “Josh took Aaron across to go to the toilet. I heard a woman screaming ‘help’ and I turned to look towards where I heard the screaming coming from and I could see a woman in the water.
“I didn’t know what she was screaming for but I walked towards her. As I set off Josh came running towards me shouting ‘it’s Aaron, he’s gone under’.
“I ran and dove in and across to where the woman was. I’m not a very good swimmer and the water was cold, it took my breath away.
“Josh told me they had been stepping on some stones that were a couple of feet into the water and that Aaron slipped on a rock.
“Josh had grabbed hold of him and ended up slipping which is how he ended up letting Aaron go. I made a point of telling him no responsibility was put on him, that it wasn’t his fault.”
More than 40 members of the public formed a search party to help find Aaron in the 25ft deep water, but attempts were in vain and Aaron’s body was recovered at around 6.30pm.
Mr Page, who described Aaron as a “daredevil”, added: “When we arrived and we could see some lads jumping off a tree into the water, Aaron’s eyes lit up and he said ‘I’m doing that’.
“I told him ‘no you’re not, you’re not going anywhere near that tree’. There wasn’t a chance I was going to let him. We had no intention of letting the kids go into the water.”
Mum Katrina Page told the inquest she had been playing with her niece and nephew when she heard shouting.
She said: “I walked over and saw Alan in the water and he said, ‘it’s Aaron, he’s gone’.”
A postmortem revealed Aaron died from drowning.
The inquest continues.