A POLICE diver who pulled the lifeless body of a 15-year-old boy from a South Yorkshire reservoir choked back tears while giving evidence during an emotional inquest.
Underwater search unit PC Glen Poole’s voice cracked as he described finding Phillip Law drowned in cold water six metres below the surface of Manvers Lake on a hot summer’s day last year.
Frantic pals who had been swimming in the lake with Phillip had tried in vain to save their friend - attempts praised as “valiant efforts” by coroner Nicola Mundy.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, she said: “Phillip was merely doing what many young people do, and enjoying a warm summer day.”
The lad was the third teenager to die in the former pit in 13 years.
Rotherham Coroner Ms Mundy had to take over and read the remainder of South Yorkshire Police diver PC Poole’s statement while he composed himself after his breakdown.
PC Poole then apologised to Phillip’s family “for the emotion”, explaining he had been affected by hearing how the teenager’s friends had tried to save him before he disappeared into the depths.
Phillip was one of four pals, aged 15 and 16, who had gone to Manvers Lake on the morning of June 23 last year.
In a statement read to the inquest, friend Jack Banton, 16, said: “We were swimming about and having a right good time.”
He said the lads had been discussing camping on the larger of two islands in the middle of the lake, around 50m from the shore, and decided to swim over to have a look.
“I said to Phil, ‘Do you feel confident enough to swim to the island?’,” said Jack. “He said, ‘Yeah, yeah let’s do it, it will be good’.”
The two boys, and another friend Karl Hickson, set off for the island. The fourth friend, Nathan Martin, who was not a confident swimmer, watched from the bank.
About halfway across Karl started struggling, but Jack, an army cadet, told him to change stroke and he recovered.
But soon Phillip, of Kilnhurst Road, Rawmarsh, near Rotherham, was also in trouble.
Jack said: “Phil shouted, ‘Banton I can’t do it’.
“That’s all he said, and then he went under.”
Jack swam over to his friend and tried to help him to the bank. “I was shouting at him to grab me but he kept going under,” he told the inquest. “He was trying to pull at the water, trying to grab a breath.
“He looked really distressed, absolutely terrified.
“I grabbed him on the skin at the back of his neck and then I went under and tried to push him up.
“But I couldn’t keep myself up any more. He was too big.”
Nathan, watching from the bank, dialled 999 and firefighters, police officers, a helicopter and divers were soon at the scene.
But Phillip, a pupil at Swinton School, had disappeared under the water and it was nearly 90 minutes before PC Poole recovered his body, 21 metres from the island.
Phillip’s 49-year-old mum Samantha - in court with his dad Gary, 58, and older sister Rebecca - said she first discovered something was wrong when she received a Facebook message from one of Phillip’s friends that afternoon.
“I’m devastated at the tragic death of my son,” she said in a statement read to the inquest at Rotherham Magistrates’ Court. “He was always a happy, healthy boy.”
Coroner Ms Mundy said she was convinced the cold water had been the cause of Phillip’s difficulties.
“He entered what, in my view, is a treacherous stretch of water, with little or no appreciation of the critical effects a drop in temperature can have on the body.”