“We’ve lost our baby boy and best friend” – an emotional tribute from the devastated parents of a 15-year-old boy, who drowned in a Chorley reservoir.
Thomas Barton, of Tansley Avenue, Coppull, was swimming with friends at Birkacre Brow at Yarrow Valley Park, on 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.
His family, including mum Clare, dad Simon, sister Rachel, 19, and brothers Matthew, 24 and Robert, 23, paid tribute to him, saying: “Thomas was very much loved and will be terribly missed by all of us.
“We are devastated. His mother Clare has lost her baby boy, and his father Simon has lost his best friend.”
A huge outpouring of emotion has seen bunches of flowers laid on the banks where Thomas lost his life.
On Monday evening, more than 200 distraught schoolchildren, friends and family gathered in silent vigil to the teenager, a pupil at Holy Cross High School.
Friends lit candles and placed balloons at the spot where Thomas set off from the edge of the reservoir.
His family added: “Thomas was very popular at school and had lots of friends – he really valued their friendship. At school, he enjoyed science and computers.
“He also really enjoyed going remote control racing in Blackpool with his father and brothers, where they had lads’ days out, and he used to love riding motor bikes and helping his dad repair them.”
Around 7.40pm on Sunday, emergency services were called by his friends, who said Thomas had swum out to the middle of the reservoir with a group of friends but was struggling to stay afloat.
He got into difficulties and his friends lost sight of him.
A massive rescue operation was launched involving police, Lancashire Fire and Rescue, North West Ambulance Service, Mountain Rescue and the park rangers.
At 11pm, his body was pulled from the reservoir, which is owned by Chorley Council as part of the wider Yarrow Valley Park.
Det Insp Jo Keay of Chorley police said: “Despite the best efforts of all the people involved in the rescue operation, sadly, a young boy has lost his life, and it goes to illustrate the dangers of swimming in open water.
“This was an absolutely tragic accident and our thoughts are with Thomas’ family at this sad time.”