Half-term outing to Bolton Abbey ends in tragedy

LIKE many other day trippers, Aaron Page's family had decided to take advantage of the sunshine and planned a barbecue for the boy who was celebrating his eighth birthday.

Birthday boy, 8, drowns in river on outing to Dales beauty spot

But their relaxing day beside the River Wharfe turned to tragedy when Aaron apparently slipped into the water and was later discovered drowned.

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Aaron, along with a group of more than 20 members of his family, from Pontefract, had travelled to the beauty spot, near Bolton Abbey.

Police said last night that the part of the river where Aaron got into difficulty is about 25ft deep. It is believed a member of public managed to grab hold of Aaron but the strong current dragged him below the water's surface and he disappeared.

Yesterday his parents Katrina, 31, and Alan, were too distraught to talk but family members paid tribute to the "little lad".

Aaron's cousin Sarah Savage, 21, said affectionately: "He was a little monster, always happy and running around.

"There were about 20 people and they took a barbecue and that for the trip. A woman got hold of his hand to pull him out but she could not keep hold of him. The current was too strong."

Sarah said she saw Aaron's parents later on Saturday night when she gave her uncle Alan a comforting hug and added: "They could just not speak."

Aaron's mum Katrina, wrote on social networking site Facebook: "R.I.P Aaron our little man we will Neva forget u.....love you loadsxxxxxxxxxx."

Aaron's uncle, David Waugh, 39, who works in the pits in Nottingham, said he arrived at the scene just five minutes before Aaron's body was recovered from the water.

He said: "There were about five fire engines, six rescue vehicles, 30 or 40 police officers and divers in the water looking for him.

"Apparently the lady who tried to save him was hanging onto a tree trying to hold onto him. She was very distressed."

Emergency services mounted a major search to find Aaron, who was enjoying the sunshine and soaring temperatures on the last weekend of half term from St Giles Primary School, in Pontefract, but he was discovered in the water more than three hours later.

Aaron, who has a brother, Josh, 13, and three sisters, Sophie, 11, Bethany, 10 and Carla, died at the scene.

North Yorkshire Police said Aaron had gone to Bolton Abbey on Saturday, his eighth birthday, with a group of about 25 family members.

A spokesman said: "He entered the water at around 3.05pm in the area near the footbridge where the depth is about 25ft and got into difficulties.

"The alarm was raised by his 13-year-old brother who saw him struggling and members of the public entered the water to try and help but were unable to get in due to the depth of the water and the strong undercurrent," the spokesman added.

The tragedy unfolded near the scene of a life-threatening rescue from the river in 2007.

Evie Hastings, then aged seven, and her mother Susan, from the York area, were using the stepping stones at the Bolton Abbey estate in the Yorkshire Dales when they were engulfed by a sudden flood.

Mrs Hastings' husband tried to rescue them but the current was too strong and he had to scramble back to the bank.

However a passer-by, Matthew Firth, bravely jumped in and was able to protect the pair by forming a human barrier in front of them as he held on to a lifebuoy.

For around half an hour, they fought to avoid being washed downstream until rescuers arrived.