Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Friends weep for river death boy

Friends gather to leave flowers close to the stretch of the River Avon where Aaron Burgess, 14, was recovered by a police diving team
The stretch of the River Avon Somerset where Aaron Burgess, 14, was recovered by a police diving team
Floral tributes left close to the stretch of the River Avon where Aaron Burgess, 14, died after getting into difficulty while swimming

The devastated friends of a teenager who drowned when he got into difficulty after using a weir as a slide have comforted each other at the scene of his death.

More than 50 friends from Aaron Burgess's school and youth club have laid flowers and cards and lit candles next to the River Avon.

The 14-year-old, from Longwell Green, near Bristol, was cooling off in a stretch of the River Avon between Bristol and Bath on Tuesday evening when he disappeared under the water and did not resurface.

Emergency services were called to the river where the teenager had been swimming on one the hottest days of the year so far at about 5.40pm. His body was found by police divers about six hours later. Aaron's father paid tribute to his "beautiful son" who was "always acting the fool" on a card laid next to white and purple flowers.

Jesse Stroud, 14, was playing in the water with Aaron when he started to struggle to keep his head above the water. He said a group of about seven boys had been making the most of the first sun of the summer holidays after finishing school two weeks ago.

"We went down the weir just as a slide," he said. "He (Aaron) wasn't a very good swimmer and he just started to struggle and me and my friend tried to help him, but we just couldn't and then we went over to the bank and tried to call for help.

"He was trying to keep his head above the water and was really struggling and my friend was shouting at me to help him, we were both just trying to keep him above the water. Towards the end, when people actually realised he was in trouble, a lot of people were watching. Another man got into an inflatable boat and tried to get to him.

"I was just panicking. I just couldn't believe it, because I just didn't think anything like this would ever happen. I was terrified. I never thought it would ever go this far."

Connor Wiltshire, 14, Aaron's best friend at school, said he tried to save him by paddling over on an inflatable. Fighting back tears, Connor paid tribute to his friend and said he would be sorely missed.

Aaron had attended Cadbury Heath Youth Club, near Warmley, South Gloucestershire, which has around 100 members. Many of them gathered at the river behind the Jolly Sailor pub in Saltford to comfort each other and talk about their friend. Young girls wept and hugged each other while red-eyed boys shook their heads in disbelief.

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