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Non-swimming police officer's distress that he couldn't save boy from River Faughan

A police officer who cannot swim wept as the body of a teenage boy he had been chasing was recovered from the River Faughan, a Coroner's Court has heard.

Kyle Bonnes (15) died on April 7, 2010 after he jumped into the river at Drumahoe on the outskirts of Londonderry as two officers pursued him and a friend.

An expert witness from the Rivers Agency told the court in Magherafelt the river was very fast-flowing at that point and it could have created a whirlpool effect.

The two officers were responding to a call from a member of the public who had reported seeing the two boys in a drunken state in a playing field.

That person, known only as Witness A, said she called the police out of concern for their safety. One of them had pulled his trousers and underwear down and was exposing himself, she claimed.

A friend of the deceased, David King, said a group of friends had met at the Traveller's Inn car park earlier. He said Kyle and another friend, Glen O'Hara, went to nearby playing fields to drink vodka.

Kyle had appeared in the Youth Court earlier that day and was released on bail on condition he did not drink alcohol.

David went to get chips, and said the two officers had arrived by the time he returned. He said they walked towards Kyle and Glen, who were hiding behind a tree, but when the officers saw them they began chasing them.

David said that by the time he reached the scene, Kyle was in real difficulty in the water, and had struggled the instant he entered it.

Local fisherman Robert Brolly arrived at the riverbank just as the chase began. He said he realised immediately Kyle would be in real trouble, as he knew the stretch of water well.

When Kyle's body was eventually recovered, Mr Brolly said one of the officers was "crying and clearly distressed".

But Mr Brolly added that he would not have jumped in to attempt a rescue, as he believed the stretch of water was extremely dangerous.

But Mark Sergeant, another local, did go in from the opposite riverbank. The witness described how he tried to make his way across, but his efforts were in vain.

Northern Ireland Coroner John Leckey told Mr Sergeant that he would put his name forward for a bravery award for his efforts.

Foyle Search and Rescue volunteer Stephen Twells told the inquest he lost his balance and fell over during the recovery attempt. Another volunteer, Craig Smyth, recalled how after they found the body one of the officers was "very upset and crying".

Counsel for the PSNI revealed that the two officers could not swim, and asked Mr Smyth if he would ever advise anyone unable to swim to go into the water to attempt a rescue.

Mr Smyth said "we would never advise anyone who cannot swim to enter the water to rescue anyone".

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph