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Disbelief that beauty spot was scene of such a terrible loss

By Claire McNeilly

All you could hear on the path that winds its way towards the Ecos Centre was the sound of birds singing.

Otherwise, there was nothing but an eerie silence along the walkway that looks out towards the River Braid which yesterday was running fast and threatening to flood its banks.

Along the way, several swans were flapping around in an artificial lake; a woman and her dog walked by, while a man stopped at a bridge to gaze out towards Ballymena town.

There was absolutely no indication of the horror that had unfolded in this idyllic beauty spot just 24 hours earlier when little Kayden Fleck was swept away by the raging river.

Pockets of thin snow covered the ground, and the gravel route was smothered with puddles and mud as it wound its way round that icy, inhospitable water.

A little off the beaten track was an empty play park, with two sets of vacant swings, on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon when no more than a handful of intrepid walkers had opted to brave the intermittent showers.

So many people in Ballymena yesterday found it almost impossible to grasp how this peaceful landscape had hosted a scene of panic, of indescribable despair, when two little boys went on an adventure that morphed into the worst moment imaginable for parents Leanne and Darrel - a couple who, just two Saturdays earlier, had got married.

No-one yet knows what really unfolded when Kayden and his brother Jayden - five-year-old twin boys who previously lived in a nearby housing estate - ended up by the banks of the Braid, so close to their former home.

But somehow little Kayden - described by his mum and dad as a "happy-go-lucky boy" who "melted your heart" - fell into the treacherous icy water and was swept over four miles downstream before being plucked from the water and air-lifted to hospital.

A close friend of the family said it was Kayden's distraught father Darrel who raised the alarm after racing to the river and realising, to his horror, that one of his sons had fallen in.

"The boys got separated from the family for a very short period of time, it was such a tragic accident," the man said.

"Their father went to look for them and that's when he realised what had happened. He couldn't get to Kayden. He was the one who called the police. It was an awful accident."

A neighbour said the local community was still reeling from the loss of one of their own.

"They are consumed by grief. They're still in shock, they don't know what happened," she said. "Until they have answers it's going to be hard for them to come to terms with this."

Kayden's heartbroken family sought solace at the home of his godmother Samantha McGowan, who said her "heart was torn", and throughout the day, relatives and friends called to pay their respects and offer their deepest condolences.

All the while, the blinds stayed closed as the front door was opened, again and again, to let mourners in.

Just after 3pm, family members walked along the path towards the river, to the spot where Kayden was last seen alive.

The journey back from there must have felt like the longest and most painful of their lives.

Belfast Telegraph

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