Northampton

Mother criticises fire officers over son's lake death

Philip Surridge
Image caption The body of Philip Surridge was found the day after he disappeared in the lake

A mother has criticised fire officers for not going into a frozen lake to rescue her son as he and another man were drowning.

Philip Surridge, 42, from Corby, tried to rescue Paul Litchfield, 30, of Raunds, but both died at Brightwell Lake, Ringstead, on 21 December.

An inquest heard firefighters were not allowed in the water until specialist rescuers arrived.

Mr Surridge's mother said firefighters had "condemned my son to death".

'Shouting and yelling'

Mr Surridge had begged a member of the public not to let him die as he struggled in the icy water, the hearing at Kettering Coroner's Court was told.

By the time the specialist firefighter team arrived, Mr Surridge had sunk out of sight and his body was found the following day. The body of Mr Litchfield was found on 30 December by police divers.

Mr Litchfield had been trying to reach his dog, the inquest was told. The two men had been on a shooting trip when the black Labrador went into the lake. The dog was later recovered alive.

Mr Surridge's mother, Beryl Hindlaugh, 64, said: "My son was shouting and yelling. He had the strength to yell; why didn't one go out into the water and try to get a line to him?"

Kevin Brown, the crew manager from the Irthlingborough fire station, who were the first on the scene, said he and his crew threw lines at Mr Surridge but they did not reach.

He said: "I decided it was inappropriate to go into the water due to the temperature. I was aware the Swift Water Response team was only three or four minutes behind."

The second crew from Wellingborough fire station arrived a few minutes later but by then Mr Surridge had disappeared under the water.

'Can't hold on'

Stephen Smith, who was feeding his horses nearby, made the first call to the emergency services.

He said: "I heard the man shouting 'don't let me die, don't let me die. I can't hold on any longer'."

Mr Smith waded up to to his waist in freezing water throwing ropes and branches at Mr Surridge. He said he was very frustrated that fire crews would not go into the water.

Recording verdicts of accidental death, Northamptonshire Coroner Anne Pember described Mr Smith's efforts as "valiant" and said she would be writing to the Royal Humane Society to recommend him for an award.

She said the public needed to be informed of the dangers of going out onto ice even to rescue a pet.

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