Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 16:41 UK

Trapped teenager dies in flooding

Max Sullivan-Webb (picture from police)
Fire crews said Max was submerged for about 20 minutes

A 17-year-old boy has died after being trapped in flood water in Oxfordshire.

Emergency crews were called to Eastfield Road, Witney, on Tuesday evening after two boys became trapped in a culvert during flash flooding.

Max Sullivan-Webb, of Judds Close, died despite the efforts of fire crews who were up to their necks in water as almost a month's rainfall hit the area.

The second boy was taken to hospital and later discharged. Max's family said they were "devastated" by his loss.

In a statement released through the police it said: "Max was just like any other teenager, he loved music, computer games and riding his BMX with his mates. But in other ways he was a real individual and didn't follow the crowd.

"He was kind, gentle and very laid back, he never took life too seriously and was always laughing and joking. We will have so many fond memories of him.

"We are devastated by his loss, especially as we will not be able to experience the fantastic young man he was destined to have become."

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service told the BBC Max was trapped by a metal grate at the entrance to the drain and was submerged for about 20 minutes.

They described Max's death as "absolutely tragic".

We were doing all we could to try and save this lad
Peter Cleary

Steve Harrison, from the service, said: "What we saw in the water was one young man trying to hold on to his friend who was totally submerged under into the water.

"He was being held under the water in that position because of the pressure and the volume of the water that was driving through the culvert."

Fire service colleague Peter Cleary said: "A culvert is like a concrete tunnel, which has some bars to stop weeds and debris from going any further, and it looks as if he was restricted at that point [by the bars].

"Our fire crews from Witney were in up to their necks in water.

"We wear buoyancy aids and jackets and we were doing all we could to try and save this lad."

He said crews attempted to resuscitate Max but he was later pronounced dead at hospital.

"Unfortunately, this is just a real tragic event."

'Having laugh'

Eastfield Road flanks a field, which is crossed by a drain that regularly floods and then attracts local children who like to play in the waters.

Derek Gould, a 64-year-old painter and decorator, saw events unfold from his house, which borders the field where the tragedy took place.

He said: "There was a group of lads over in the copse having a laugh in the flood waters. There had been a lot of children in the area all day.

Firefighter on the attempt to save the teenager

"They were jumping in and playing around. Then we heard someone out of the back window yelling for help.

"One fire engine came and they got one boy out but they could not get the other one out.

"More engines came and later I saw the second boy come over on a stretcher. They were trying to resuscitate him.

"I used to play over there myself as a youngster. I could hear those kids having a laugh - now one of them has paid with his life."

Sue Williams, who also lives nearby, said: "I heard sirens, there was ambulance, police and fire engines and they all went rushing over to the field.

"They brought one lad out. He was ok, though cold and wet, but about half an hour later they brought a stretcher out and they were performing CPR."

Thames Valley Police said Max - known locally as Max Weeden - was one of a group of youths who had gathered in a field near Eastfield Road during Tuesday evening's flash flooding.

Flowers laid close to the path that leads to where a 17-year-old boy died after being trapped in flood water
Flowers were laid close to the path that leads to where the boy died

Max "found himself in difficulty in a flooded area and got trapped in a concrete culvert and drowned", a police spokesman said.

He said details of the death would be passed to the coroner.

The second boy was discharged from hospital on Wednesday morning.

Conservative leader David Cameron, who is MP for Witney, said: "I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of this 17-year-old boy.

"My thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time."

Richard Langridge, councillor for Witney North, said: "It's incredibly tragic. Unfortunately this is something which has been perhaps likely to happen so I am just incredibly sorry it has.

"I desperately hope we can do something to stop it happening again.

"I've been working with David Cameron and the local district council to try to get the Environment Agency to fund a scheme of balancing ponds above Eastfield Road to hold the water back.

"I will be putting more pressure on them to try to get the work started - it's long overdue."


SEE ALSO
Flood-hit area awarded cash grant
10 Mar 08 |  Berkshire
Flood plains site for new houses
06 Feb 08 |  Berkshire
Clean-up under way after floods
31 Jul 07 |  Oxfordshire

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