South West Wales

Luke Somerfield accidental drowning: Best friend tried to save him

An inquest has heard how a 14-year-old boy tried to save his best friend from drowning in a disused quarry.

Warren Jachter tried to help Luke Somerfield, also 14, after he got into trouble while swimming in freezing water at Cilyrychen Quarry, Llandybie.

But Luke kept unintentionally dragging his friend under the water so Warren returned to the shore and dialled 999.

Luke, from Llandeilo, became tangled in rope from a lifesaving ring and drowned.

The inquest at Llanelli town hall heard that Luke and Warren had gone to the quarry on 6 June with friends Melissa Dougan, 11, and Chloe Knight, 13.

The quarry, known locally as blue lagoon, was around 80ft (24m) deep.

In a statement to the court, Warren said: "The water was freezing and after going in for a few minutes, we decided to get out. We went exploring around the edge of the quarry for around an hour, but Luke decided he wanted to go back in.

"He put the life preserver on and went out into the waters, with him sitting in the middle. As he was drifting further and further out, he started to panic and jumped off the ring.

"He immediately went under and when he came back up he was splashing wildly and calling for help.

"I thought he could swim well but it became obvious that he couldn't."

Warren swam out to his stricken friend but Luke was unintentionally pulling him under in his panic, so Warren returned to the shore and called for help.

Luke came back to the surface several times but eventually went under and vanished from sight.

Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police - PC Robert Lang and PC Alan Morgan - were the first to arrive at the scene.

'Intense cold'

PC Lang told the inquest he cut through a metal fence and sprinted up a gravel path to find two girls screaming and a boy who he said was pale and looked stunned.

PC Lang remove his heavy stab-vest and utility belt and waded into the water.

"The first thing I noticed was the intense cold. I had cold stabbing pains and experienced shortness of breath," he said.

Former lifeguard PC Morgan, who was next to enter the water, noted the "instantaneously" freezing temperature of the water. He treaded water for up to two minutes and reached out for the lifebuoy that Luke used, as the cold began to take hold.

With a police helicopter and RAF Sea King Rescue team now hovering above, a "white shadow" was seen in the dark-blue water. PC Morgan dived down around 15ft (4.6m) and retrieved Luke's body.

"His upper left arm was tangled in rope attached to the life preserve. His body was limp, his eyes slightly open and his skin very pale," he said.

Luke was airlifted to Morriston Hospital, Swansea, and despite successful attempts to restart the teenager's heart, the damage to his lungs was too severe and he died later that evening.

The inquest was told that Luke and his friends went to the quarry because they heard from other children in school that it was "a fun place to go swimming".

After recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Mark Leighton said: "I would like to offer and extend my sympathies to Luke's friends and family.

"I would also like to commend the bravery and courage displayed by officer Lang and officer Morgan as well as others who played a part in the rescue effort."

David McClelland, executive director for Tarmac's west region, the company that owns the quarry, said: "Following today's inquest, we once again extend our most sincere condolences to Luke's family - our thoughts are very much with them.

"We take the health and safety of our employees and members of the public extremely seriously, and we are all deeply saddened by this tragic incident."

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