Moving tributes have been paid to ‘the best little lad you could ever meet’ after an 11-year-old boy drowned in a canal just a few hundreds yards from his home.
Shocked neighbours described how family and friends of the Rotherham schoolboy – named locally as Subhaan Ali – rushed to the Sheffield Navigation Canal at the rear of Parkgate Retail Park after hearing he was in the water at around 7pm on Thursday.
But the Sitwell Junior School pupil, who lived on Eldon Road in Eastwood, could not be rescued and his body was recovered from the water by emergency services at 11pm.
South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed one line of enquiry being investigated is the possibility Subhaan was with friends who were playing a game called ‘tombstoning’ – which involves jumping from a bridge into water.
But they say the full circumstances of the ‘tragic incident’ are not yet clear.
Shocked neighbours have described their heartbreak at his death.
They said he had been a pupil at Sitwell Junior School and had been due to start at Clifton Community School in September.
Subhaan’s neighbour, Claire Bates, said: “He was lovely, the best little lad you could ever meet.
“He will be missed round here by a lot of people.”
She described the tragedy and reaction to Subhaan’s death as ‘heartbreaking’.
Sarah Swallow, who also lives on Eldon Road, said she had seen Subhaan on the street on Thursday.
She said dozens of people had rushed down to the canal after hearing he was in the water in a bid to help rescue him – but were prevented from jumping in by the emergency services.
“One of our friends ran down to try and save him and they wouldn’t let him go in the water. They didn’t want to be rescuing him as well.
“There must have been 30 to 40 people running down to try and save him.”
She said there had been a number of different accounts as to what had happened but she believed Subhaan was unable to swim.
Rotherham councillor Saghir Alam said people in Eastwood were trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
He said: “The whole community is shocked with the incident and our prayers are with the family at this very difficult time.
“It is very, very tragic. He was due to start secondary school in September.
“The whole community is just shell-shocked.”
Police have said the schoolboy was with eight other children at the time he went into the water.
One fire service official suggested on Friday morning that it was understood the boy had been taking part in ‘tombstoning’ when the accident occurred.
But at a later joint police and fire service press conference on Friday afternoon, Helen Lewis, acting chief inspector for South Yorkshire Police, said the investigation was ‘still in its infancy’.
“We have got to get all the evidence and everyone spoken to,” she said.
“It is a tragic incident. I can’t tell you how he has died.”
She added: “We have got a tragic death of a young boy and our hearts go out to the family.
“It is a tragedy to go into the water and die in such circumstances and his friends and family are grieving.”
Stewart Nicholson, group manager for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “At this moment in time, the investigation is very much in its early stage.
“It is only right and proper that we let the full investigation take its time.”
Police said the boy had been with around eight other young people when he went into the water.
Investigating officer Temporary Detective Inspector Graham Stead said: “We have a number of resources investigating the circumstances that led to this tragic incident where sadly a young life has been lost.
“We believe that the boy was with a group of around eight other young people when he entered the water at around 7pm.
“We are working to establish the full circumstances in the lead up to the incident but we would appeal for anyone who was in the area between 6pm and 7pm, and may have seen a group of young people or has any information, to please get in touch.”
Formal identification was yet to have taken place yesterday and officers are working with both the coroner and Subhaan’s family.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out in due course.
Mr Nicholson warned families to ensure children stay away from open water following this tragic death at the start of the summer holidays.
He said: “Everyone should talk to their families about the risks associated with entering open water.”