Terrible moment my brother lost my grip and drowned in Bolton Abbey river

A TEENAGE boy yesterday recalled the tragic moment he let go of his younger brother’s hand and watched as he fell into a river and drowned on his eighth birthday.

Aaron Page, eight, went to Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire with parents Alan and Katrina and brother Joshua on June 5, one of the hottest days of last year.

The family had initially planned a barbecue at their home in Pontefract but Mr Page’s brother Stuart Lindsay persuaded them to join him at Bolton Abbey for a family day out, an inquest at Skipton Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

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As the family set up a barbecue by the river’s edge just after 2pm, Mr Page asked his older son Joshua to take Aaron to the toilet.

The brothers were only about 200 yards from their parents on a small shingle beach when Aaron fell from a rock on the cobbled beach into the murky water.

Giving evidence during the two-day inquest, Joshua, 14, described how Aaron slipped when the pair were stood on rocks about a foot from the river bank, ankle-deep in the River Wharfe.

In a quiet voice, he said: “He walked in and slipped then as I tried to pull him out I fell and I let him go.”

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Heartbroken Joshua said he and his brother, who had walked into the water together with their shoes on, were stood on “big rocks” in a shallow part of the river where he could still see the bottom when Aaron slipped.

He added: “He just walked in and he slipped, I did my best to grab hold of him but I slipped.”

Reassuring the teenager the accident was not his fault, Coroner Robert Turnbull said: “I am sure you did everything you could to help your brother.”

Joshua’s screams for help were heard by Andrea Campbell, who had been paddling with her family nearby and dived straight into the cold water to save the little boy.

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Crying, she told the inquest: “I could just see his head under the water. I could just see him and as I got closer, I was too late.”

Father-of-five Alan Page, who thanked Mrs Campbell for her efforts, told the inquest he had run into the water when he heard Mrs Campbell screaming, not realising it was his own son who had gone under until he saw Joshua’s panic-stricken face.

The teenager told him: “It’s Aaron, he’s gone under.”

Although he described the water as “inviting” when they first arrived, Mr Page said he was shocked how cold it was when he dived in, saying it “took my breath away”.

Daytrippers at the busy tourist spot took to the water to help emergency services search for Aaron while his family waited by the riverside.

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After a three-hour wait, Aaron’s body was recovered and the family realised he had gone.

Mr Page said: “I saw them pulling him out. There was no doubt.”

When the family arrived at the river, Aaron, the youngest of five children and described as a “daredevil”, spotted a group of teenagers jumping into the water further up the river and wanted to join in, even though he couldn’t swim very far.

Mr Page said: “When we arrived and we could see these lads jumping off a tree, Aaron’s eyes lit up and he said ‘I’m doing that’.

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“’No you’re not, you’re not going anywhere near that tree’, I told him. There wasn’t a chance I was going to let him.”

He added: “We had no intention of letting the kids go into the water.”

Mr Page said he had seen the signs warning people about the dangers of the river, and had even been leaning against one when the family had arrived that day.

Mum Katrina Page, who has ‘Aaron’ tattooed on the side of her hand, was playing with her niece and nephew, both two, when she heard screams.

She said: “I walked over, saw Alan in the water and I said ‘what’s happened?’ He said ‘its Aaron, he’s gone.”

A post mortem revealed Aaron died from drowning. The inquest continues.