One year on, Babbs Mill boys remembered

On the first anniversary of the Babbs Mill tragedy, West Midlands Fire Service is urging people of all ages to ‘think twice, stay off ice’.

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Published on 11 December 2023

Firefighters and members of the West Midlands community have remembered the four boys who lost their lives a year ago after venturing on to ice at Babbs Mill Lake.

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday 10 December), we held our carol service at St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham.

Last year, the gravity of the incident at Kingshurst was just becoming known as people made their way to the annual service on 11 December. The event was cancelled shortly before it was due to begin, as full details of the tragedy unfolded.

Chief Fire Officer Wane Brown, addressing yesterday’s congregation, said: “It is important I acknowledge that we were unable to meet here last year because of the awful events at Babbs Mill, which so deeply affected our community and many of our staff.

“I know that the families of all four boys will be in our thoughts and prayers this Christmas time.”

On the first anniversary of the tragedy, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is urging people of all ages to ‘think twice, stay off ice’.

Chief Fire Officer Wayne Brown addresses the congregation at our Carol Concert at St Martin in the Bull Ring

Area Manager Martin Ward-White of WMFS, who was the on-scene commander for the incident, said: “Our hearts go out to the boys’ families and friends on this, the first anniversary. We can only imagine how painfully difficult the past year has been for them.

“The deaths of Jack, Thomas, Fin and Sam continue to have a profound impact on so many people.

“Cold, winter days are a heartbreaking reminder of what happened at Babbs Mill. They are also a warning to us all.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, how thick the ice appears, or how safe you think it might be. This winter, we are pleading with everyone: think twice, stay off ice.”

Close up of frozen water on the surface of a lake with an embankment in the distance

What to do if YOU accidentally fall through ice:

  • stay calm and shout for help
  • spread your arms out across the surface of the ice in front of you
  • lie flat and use your arms to pull yourself over the ice towards the shore
  • if the ice on the water breaks, try to make your way to the bank or shore, breaking ice in front of you as you go
  • if you find yourself stuck and unable to escape, wait for help. Stay as still as possible to conserve your energy. Bring your arms close to your sides and keep your legs together, while keeping your head out of the water
  • when you’re safely out of the water it’s important to go to hospital for a check-up.

What to do if you see SOMEONE ELSE fall through the ice:

  • shout for help, call 999 or 112 and – if the incident involves inland water – ask for the fire service. At the coast, ask for the coastguard
  • do not go on to ice to attempt a rescue
  • call out to the casualty and encourage them to stay calm
  • to try to reach the person from the bank, use a rope, pole, tree branch, clothes tied together or anything else that can extend your reach
  • lie down flat on the bank, to avoid slipping or being pulled in
  • if you can’t reach them, try sliding something that floats – like a football or large plastic bottle – to them, to help them float
  • if the casualty is too far away, DO NOT try to rescue them yourself. Wait for the emergency services to arrive. Continue to calm and reassure the person.

Advice to dog walkers:

  • keep dogs on their leads near ice, and do not throw sticks or toys on to it
  • never go on to ice or into icy water to rescue a dog or other animal
  • move to somewhere where the dog will be able to climb out and call them towards you.

Please visit our winter water safety page for further information.