Published: February 28, 2013
Dylan Cecil's parents tell inquest how tragedy unfolded on town jetty

The parents of four-year-old Dylan Cecil, who drowned after being swept out to sea on a visit to Burnham-On-Sea last August, have relived the heart-breaking moment their son disappeared beneath the water.

Dylan was playing with his two sisters and a cousin on the jetty when he was swept away as waves crashed over the tarmac surface.

His parents, Rachel McCollum and Darren Cecil's son, told an inquest into Dylan's death in Taunton on Thursday (February 28th) that they dived in after him, but had to be rescued themselves as extremely strong currents made it almost impossible for them to keep their heads above water.

Dylan's lifeless body was discovered four days later when a beach walker noticed what appeared to be a child "sleeping on the sand" near the town's sailing club.

Ms McCollum told the inquest that the family, who were on holiday from Kettering, had been visiting her parents at the time of the tragedy on August 19th, had returned to Burnham beach for the afternoon.

The court heard Dylan wanted to see the sea, and so they began to walk down the jetty where many older children were already playing.

In a statement read in court, Ms McCollum said: "I turned around and saw Dylan was still jumping in the water. He had moved towards the edge of the jetty."

"He was jumping and laughing. But he suddenly went into the water. I heard a plop. I couldn't believe it was him."

Mr Cecil immediately jumped in to rescue his son, and was followed close behind by Ms McCollum while shocked onlookers raised the alarm.

"I was shouting: 'My boy, he's gone'. I realised how strong the current was, it felt like a whirlpool."

Mr Cecil said he was barely able to take breath as he battled to stay afloat in the water in his bid to locate his son under the murky water.

He also described how he was so tired he almost surrendered himself to the sea. "I couldn't feel the bottom of the sea with my feet," he said in a statement read out at the hearing."

"I managed to get my head above the surface of the water. I was looking around, I couldn't see Dylan. I saw Rachel jump in. I can remember her shouting: 'Where's Dylan gone?'"

"All my energy had gone trying to fight against the current. I remember saying 'I'm gone.' I really thought I was going to die."

He said he thought he heard Ms McCollum scream out to him not to die. "I then saw my little girl on the jetty," he said. "That must have given me a second lease of life."

The couple were pulled from the sea and taken to safety as the Coastguard started a huge search for Dylan.

Tourist Alyn Pritchard, who was on a day-visit from mid-Glamorgan in South Wales, said he heard Ms McCollum calling to her son - just a short distance from her at the time - to keep to the left and away from the water's edge.

He said: "You could see the little boy was jumping. But when he jumped the once, he went straight down the side and he never came up."

The inquest heard that the tide often washes over part of the concrete jetty, which is about 150m long and nearly 6m wide.

The hearing also heard that the jetty could sometimes give a false impression of where it ended and the water's edge began.

Dylan's body was discovered on August 23 by walker Peter Derham near the yacht club.

Mr Derham told police: "It was as though the sea had given the boy back and was there for someone to find him. It was as though he was sleeping on his side."

Coroner Michael Rose recorded a verdict of accidental death by drowning and said the incident had been a tragedy, and absolved the parents of any blame.

He said: "It is something that could happen to any parent. One only hopes it is a nightmare you can wake from."


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