AN URGENT warning has been issued for summer revellers to stay away from rivers and lakes after the tragic death of teenager Kyrece Francis in the River Thames in Marlow last week.
Buckinghamshire Coroner Richard Hulett spoke out as he opened an inquest into the 13-year-old’s death on Tuesday - just weeks before his 14th birthday.
The government official echoed calls from police and the Environment Agency for people to be alert to the danger presented by deep water and strong currents.
And with the summer holidays now in full swing, Mr Hulett underlined the importance of resisting the temptation to dive in during the current summer heatwave.
He said: “I know it does not help the family here today but I hope it might help someone else in future. Reading the paper at the weekend I read about at least three such incidents, mostly involving young boys.
“Schools are now out, colleges have finished and universities are out and we have one of the hottest summers for years.
“The attraction of the water is very powerful and when it is very hot I can understand why groups would go into the water.
“However, I want to emphasise that rivers are very dangerous. They are not like swimming pools, there is underwater shelving and there are hidden currents and it looks like that took him (Kyrece) away.
“The Thames is a very dangerous river, even without the danger of boats. The current is stronger than it looks.
“This is a sad and timely reminder to other kids to be very careful around water – rivers and lakes are not safe environments.”
Mr Hulett’s warning comes as at least three teenagers are known to have died in separate incidents throughout the UK in just a matter of days.
Police divers recovered the body of a 16-year-old boy from a quarry lake in Bedfordshire on Friday, and a 15-year-old boy drowned in the river Ouse in Cambridgeshire on Thursday.
And two days earlier the body of a 20-year-old missing student was found in the River Tees near Stockton.
Mr Hulett said early evidence suggests Kyrece died from immersion, but that further evidence will be heard at a full inquest, which is likely to be heard later this year.
Friends who were with Kyrece in Marlow when the tragedy occurred said he jumped into the river to fetch a football from the water around 4.30pm on Tuesday.
The promising footballer, described as “lightning fast like Usain Bolt” by a football coach from Downley Dynamos, got into difficulties after entering the river.
Friends of the Great Marlow School pupil desperately tried to rescue him but were unable to pull him to safety.
Thames Valley Police’s Specialist Search and Rescue Team and Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue combed the area for almost four hours before officers made their heartbreaking discovery at 8pm.
The search began around the area of Marlow Rugby Club, near Gossmore Lane, and continued down the river toward Well End.
Kyrece’s friends have launched a fundraising campaign to prevent further tragedies, hoping to provide life jackets, buoys and awareness signs along the Thames Path.
And the determined youngsters have already raised over £4000 for the lifesaving equipment in under a week, smashing their £2000 target.
To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/yimby/KF22/