Friends’ desperate bid to save Ryan Evans in Westport Lake tragedy, an inquest heard

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Friends of Stoke-on-Trent teenager Ryan Evans who drowned in Westport Lake made desperate attempts to save him, an inquest heard.

Ryan, 13, from Burslem, had gone swimming in the lake with four friends on Monday June 25.

His body was recovered from the lake two days later.

At the inquest, Det Con Matthew Jones of Staffordshire Police summarised statements from Ryan’s friends, who cannot be legally named.

Det Con Jones said: “Ryan’s friends gave detailed accounts of what happened.

“During the day the boys had decided to go to Westport Lake.”

There was no direct plan to go swimming, but they had done it before, the court heard.

All of the boys entered the water but Ryan and two others decided to go in further.

“Ryan and his friends waded into the lake, and they described how the bed of the lake changed underfoot.”

It was then that Ryan got into difficulty.

Det Con Jones described how Ryan’s friends shouted to him to keep his head above water.

One tried to get Ryan on their back, but it was sinking them both.

They tried to hold his head above water but couldn’t keep him up.

Ryan’s father, Glynn Evans, said: “Since Leanne [Ryan’s mother] died I’ve always been a single parent, but family have always helped.

“He was getting more and more outgoing as he was getting older. He enjoyed football and supported Port Vale.”

Glynn described his son as “a healthy young boy” who was sensible, polite and a competent swimmer.

He said: “Ryan had come home from school, gotten changed, grabbed a chocolate bar, some crisps and a drink and asked me to help him get his bike out.

”I told him to be back home for tea.”

Ryan left his home in Burslem at 3.45pm and that’s the last time his father saw him alive.

At 6pm, police went to Mr Evans’ home to inform him that Ryan was missing.

One eyewitness, Trevor Kershaw, saw the boys struggling.

He said: “I heard one of them shout for help and to call an ambulance.”

Det Con Jones arrived at the scene at around 6pm.

He said that the team were hoping that Ryan had made it out of the water.

“Initially it was a full scale search and rescue operation but as time went by we realised that it would be a search and recovery operation.

“On the Wednesday the decision was made to fly the helicopter back over the water and a member of the sonar team spotted something.

“The body was found just after 6.30pm and was pronounced dead at 6.55pm.”

Although the council have stated there are a number of warning signs around the water, DC Jones said he only saw one at the time.

He added that he believes that more have been added since.

The council does not provide life-saving aids at open water points.

Ian Smith, North Staffordshire Senior Coroner, said: “Westport Lake is a pleasant park in the middle of Stoke-on-Trent. But water presents dangers.

“Friends tried to assist him but they had no lifesaving training.”

He concluded that Ryan’s death was caused by drowning and there were no defence injuries.

“Tragic is an overused word but it certainly applies here.

”They were boys finding their feet in the world. We need to let them go into the world and gain independence.”

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