Perfect’ boy, 14, drowned in river after his friends desperately tried to save him


A heartbroken mum has paid tribute to her “perfect” 14-year-old son who died in a river while out with his friends.

Tragic Adam Kay drowned in the River Irwell last year as his pals desperately tried to save him, an inquest into his death heard yesterday.

Adam, who was not a strong swimmer, died on June 2 last year after he and two friends went to Clifton Country Park in Manchester.

It had been a hot, sunny day and Adam and one of his friends decided to go swimming, the Manchester Evening News reports.

But the schoolboy began to struggle in the deep water and was dragged under.

His friends desperately tried to help, jumping into the river and trying to hold his head above the water, but could not save him.

His body was found by emergency crews around two hours later.

Adam’s mum Shirley Whitworth and his step-dad Mark Whitworth said losing the teenager had changed their lives.

“It’s hard, there’s a piece of us missing,” Shirley said.

“You just have to take one day at a time and see how it goes.

“We still think about him every day and the tears don’t stop flowing.”

It is the second horrific tragedy to impact Shirley and the second time she has had to attend Bolton Coroners Court after Adam’s father, Gorden Kay, was killed in 2007 when their son was just 1 year old.

Gorden had been cycling to work at a scrap metal company when he was knocked off his bike in what police believe was a hit and run.

Adam’s inquest, held on Wednesday, heard that he had jumped into the River Irwell from a sheer cliff opposite a small beach in the western area of Clifton Country Park, towards Red Rock Lane.

He was not injured in the leap but he ‘got into difficulty’ in the water, senior coroner Alan Walsh said.

managed to hold his head above the river before he eventually slipped out of their grasp.

Emergency crews were called to the scene but it was a specialist diving team that eventually discovered Adam’s body below the water, some two hours after he went under.

Shirley, who was at the scene throughout the search, was called to visit hospital and formally identify her son.

She told the inquest that he had known how to swim through lessons at school but had never been a particularly strong swimmer.

“He was a basic swimmer, he didn’t have a strong swimming knowledge,” she said.

Det Insp Chris Mannion was on call on the day of the incident and led the investigation into Adam’s death.

He told the inquest that authorities were not sure of the depth of the river but explained that the fact a deep-water diving team was called means it must have been a relatively deep section of the waterway.

DI Mannion said the police investigation found there were ‘no suspicious circumstances’ around the teenager’s death and that he had jumped from the cliffside just after his friend.

“Adam and his friend jumped into the water,” the investigator said.

“The friend was the first to jump into the water, followed by Adam. It became clear that Adam was in difficulty.”

Dr Justin Nkonge, who performed a post-mortem examination, told the inquest that the teenager had no injuries to suggest he had hit his head on the way into the water.

A further toxicology examination found Adam had consumed no drugs or alcohol prior to jumping into the water and Shirley explained that his only other medical conditions were asthma and poor circulation, which would sometimes make his fingers turn blue.

Following the tragedy, Shirley and Mark called on Salford City Council to improve safety measures in Clifton Country Park.

In the inquest, representatives of the authority and staff from United Utilities – which owns a section of the park across the river – explained that they had added new signs warning people no to enter the river.

Both parties committed to adding more signage in the area with clear messaging telling people not to enter the cliffside area where Adam jumped from, and said they would continue a review into whether patrols or water throw lines could improve safety.

The coroner told both the council and United Utilities to continue with their work and said he would not recommend further actions because they had already made some improvements.

“I’m satisfied that some actions have been taken, if they hadn’t been taken I would have issued prevention of future death reports,” Mr Walsh said.

But, he added that he did not believe the measures had ‘gone far enough’ and expected to see further safety precautions put in place.

Speaking after the inquest, Shirley said she was pleased that something was being done to stop people going into the water but that it was too late for her son.

United Utilities runs education sessions for young people around the dangers of water and reservoir safety but Shirley said she would like to see more information available in schools.

“It’s a bit of a comfort to know that something’s happening,” she said.

“The coroner was quite abrupt in telling them what to do in his own way, so that was good.

“I think there needs to be made more aware in schools. We were taught a lot about the hidden dangers of this sort of thing in school but none of my kids have ever said they have been taught that.”

Finishing the inquest, the coroner concluded that Adam had died as a result of misadventure and that his cause of death was drowning.

“Adam was the perfect son,” he said, addressing Shirley and Mark.

“My final comments are to you Mr and Mrs Whitworth. I’m sure that everybody would love to have a son like Adam, someone who I’m sure could be a bit mischievous but was well-liked, well-loved, was thriving at school and didn’t present any problems to you as parents.

“I’m greatly saddened that on that sunny afternoon he just jumped in the river.”

He added: “I give credit to these two young boys who tried to rescue him from the river.

“They put themselves in danger and it was only when they were not strong enough or couldn’t keep hold that they let go of him.”