Family release statement after death of 'happy go lucky' son Kayden Fleck
A boy, who was swept more than four miles down a fast-flowing river in Northern Ireland before being pulled out by rescue teams, has died in hospital.
Tributes has been paid to five-year-old Kayden Fleck, who was a pupil at the nearby Harryville Primary School.
In a statement issued by the PSNI on behalf of the family said: "Kayden's parents, Darrel and Leanne Fleck have described their 'happy-go-lucky' son as 'your average wee boy' who 'just melted your heart'.
"Darrel and Leanne Fleck described Kayden and his twin brother, Jayden, as the 'two musketeers'.
"The family want to thank each of the agencies who were involved in the search and rescue operation yesterday, and say they are grateful for the community support they have received since."
A Facebook post on the school's page on Saturday night said: “Please remember the McGowan family (Kayden's family) in your thoughts and prayers at this very sad time as they mourn the loss of wee Kayden.
“The whole school community is remembering you at this sad time.”
Leader of the TUV Jim Allister also wrote on Twitter he offered his "heartfelt sympathy".
Writing on Twitter, UUP MLA Doug Beattie said: "Just awful... thoughts are with the family at the most difficult of times."
Awful loss for local Ballymena family in today's river tragedy. Heartfelt sympathy at this terrible time. To lose a child must be nigh unbearable. The emergency services were marvellous but it was not to be enough. So sad.— Jim Allister (@JimAllister) February 10, 2018
A major search operation was launched after Kayden fell into the Braid River near Skye Park in Ballymena, Co Antrim, at around 1pm on Saturday.
He was pulled from the water more than 45 minutes later near Tullaghgarley and immediately airlifted to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, the Community Rescue Service said.
His brother, who also fell into the river, was rescued immediately.
Sean McCarry, regional commander of the organisation, said teams had worked closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), fire service and air ambulance during the multi-agency response.
Mr McCarry said emergency services were alerted at around 1pm after the boy entered the river near the Ecos Centre.
He said: “He got swept away quite fast with it, he was travelling quite a distance.
“He was doing a mile in under 15 minutes.”
A young child pulled from the Braid river in Ballymena earlier today has passed away in hospital. pic.twitter.com/372ouNPO6a— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) February 10, 2018
Mr McCarry said rescuers were “running desperately” after the boy, while a police helicopter observed from above and reported any sightings.
“The police were co-coordinating and telling us where we needed to go to next and we were just trying to get ahead of him in the river,” he said.
“Eventually that happened and he was pulled out of the river and put into the air ambulance.”
The boy spent more than 45 minutes in the water and travelled a minimum of four miles down the river, Mr McCarry said.
“Our thoughts go out to the family," he added.
PSNI Inspector Shaf Ali said: "I would like to thank everyone involved in the search effort and extend my sincerest condolences to the family at this time."
Belfast Telegraph Digital