Brave words from a grieving family to the heroes who battled to save their drowned son.
The parents of teenager Thomas Barton, who tragically lost his life in a reservoir in Chorley last week, have spoken for the first time of their unthinkable loss – and told of their special bond with another grieving mum.
Thomas, 15, was swimming with friends at Birkacre Brow, in Yarrow Valley Park, last Sunday night, when he got into difficulties.
Despite rescue attempts by friends and a massive search operation, his body was recovered from the water four hours later. Thomas’s funeral will be held at St Oswald’s Roman Catholic Church, down the road from the family home on Tansley Avenue, Coppull, tomorrow from 3pm.
And the Bartons have revealed it will be attended by some of the emergency services who spent hours trying to find him.
The mother of 13-year-old Dylan Ramsay, who drowned in a quarry in Whittle-le-Woods 11 months ago, will also be there.
Speaking to the Guardian, Thomas’s dad Simon, a wagon driver, said: “I want to thank all the emergency services that night for their actions. All I can do is thank them for their efforts. They did a brilliant job under the circumstances, especially the underwater divers.
“It must be very upsetting for them, too.
“It’s a thankless task, but a job they have to do. It must be very hard, and all I can say is thank you.
“We have been asked by the police and Dylan’s family if they can come along, which of course they can. We are expecting a lot of people at the funeral, and anyone who wants to attend is welcome.”
Bunches of flowers now line the shore of the reservoir in memory of the Holy Cross Catholic High School pupil.
Mum Clare said: “He was a fun-loving boy. He spent a lot of time playing on his X-box with his friends, just like any other teenager. And he was popular, he had lots of friends at school.
“We are just struggling to deal with everything at the moment.
“It is all such a daze.”
Dad Simon said: “We used to fix motorbikes together. In fact, we had just finished fixing his brother’s on the Saturday before.
“He was talented. You could give him a job to do and he would just get out there and get on with it.”
Parents Simon and Clare have struck up a special bond with Beckie Ramsey, the mother of 13-year-old Dylan, a Parklands High School pupil who lost his life in a strikingly similar tragedy, when he drowned at Hill Top Quarry last year.
They plan to join Dylan’s family for a walk from Hill Top Quarry to Birkacre Brow on July 3 to mark 12 months since Dylan died.
And the family have backed Becky, who has been touring schools in Chorley to remind children about the dangers of swimming in open water as part of a legacy for her son called ‘Doing it for Dylan.”
Simon Barton added: “Kids will be kids. They think they are invincible.
“And as parents, you think you’re invincible, too. You never imagine something like this will happen to you.
“You can make kids aware until you are blue in the face, but you need to educate them, and we want to raise money for that and for greater life-saving equipment.”
The family say they are hoping in time to raise money for a bench in Thomas’s memory.
Bunches of flowers, candles, and messages line the reservoir to mark the spot where Thomas entered the water at around 7pm on May 27. Messages have been collected by Thomas’s sister Rachel, 19, and made into a scrap book for the family.