Death of Dylan Cecil, 4, at Burnham-on-Sea jetty a tragic accident
The grieving parents of a four-year-old boy who died on a visit to the seaside yesterday wiped away tears as they relived the moment their son disappeared beneath the water.
Rachel McCollum and Darren Cecil’s son, Dylan, was playing with his two sisters and a cousin on the jetty at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, when he was swept away as waves crashed over the concrete pathway.
His parents instantly dived in after him, but had to be rescued themselves as strong currents made it almost impossible for them to keep their heads above water.
Dylan’s body was discovered nearby four days later, when a walker noticed what appeared to be a child “sleeping on the sand”.
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Speaking at the inquest into Dylan’s death in Taunton yesterday, both parents wept as they remembered the horrifying moment they realised their son had vanished into the water.
Ms McCollum said the family, who were on holiday from Kettering in Northamptonshire and visiting her parents at the time of the tragedy on August 19 last year, had returned to Burnham beach for the afternoon. The court heard Dylan wanted to see the sea, and so they began to walk down the jetty where many older children were already playing as waves crashed around them.
In a statement read in court, Ms McCollum said: “I turned around and saw Dylan was still jumping in the water. He had moved towards the edge of the jetty. He was jumping and laughing. But he suddenly went into the water.
“I heard a plop. I couldn’t believe it was him.”
Mr Cecil immediately jumped in to rescue his son, and was followed close behind by Ms McCollum while shocked onlookers raised the alarm.
“I was shouting: ‘My boy, he’s gone’,” Ms McCollum said. “I realised how strong the current was, it felt like a whirlpool.”
Mr Cecil, a poor swimmer, said he was barely able to take breath as he battled the surging water in the hope of finding his son.
He also described how he was so tired he almost surrendered himself to the sea.
In a statement read in court, Mr Cecil said: “I couldn’t feel the bottom of the sea with my feet. I managed to get my head above the surface of the water. I was looking around, I couldn’t see Dylan.
“I saw Rachel jump in. I can remember her shouting: ‘Where’s Dylan gone?’
“All my energy had gone trying to fight against the current. I remember saying (to Ms McCollum): ‘I’m gone.’ I really thought I was going to die.”
He said he thought he heard Ms McCollum scream out to him not to die. “I then saw my little girl on the jetty,” he said. “That must have given me a second lease of life.”
The distressed couple were pulled from the sea and taken to safety as the Coastguard began a search for Dylan.
Tourist Alyn Pritchard, who was on a day-visit from mid-Glamorgan in South Wales, said he heard Ms McCollum calling to her son – just a short distance from her at the time – to keep to the left and away from the water’s edge.
He said: “You could see the little boy was jumping. But when he jumped the once, he went straight down the side and he never came up.”
The inquest heard that the tide often washes over part of the concrete jetty, which is about 492ft (150m) long and nearly 20ft (6m) wide. The court heard that the jetty could sometimes give a false impression of where it ended and the water’s edge began.
Recording a verdict of accidental death caused by drowning, Coroner Michael Rose said the incident had been a tragedy, and absolved the parents of any blame.
He added: “We cannot restrain children. They have a life to live. Sadly, this was a tragic way to end it.”