100s of kids had done it that summer, but he was the tragedy waiting to happen

Jamie Lewin, 16, died in Dawber Delph in Appley Bridge
Jamie Lewin, 16, died in 2022 -Credit:Family photo

On a hot summer's day in 2022, Jamie Lewin and four of his friends headed to Appley Bridge.

It was early evening on July 9, and the temperature was still around 20C. The boys were looking to cool off - and East Quarry had become a popular destination among teenagers.

The group got the train from Southport, where the 16-year-old lived, before scaling the site's perimeter fence. Like hundreds of others that summer, they then made their way down the steep banking towards the cliff-edge.

Although Jamie was a "poor swimmer at best" he followed his friend into the water-filled quarry. Less than two metres from the shoreline, he got into difficulty.


His friend in the water desperately tried to drag Jamie to the edge. The others jumped in fully-clothed in an attempt to help but were forced to call 999 as they watched his body sink beneath the surface.

He was the third person to drown at East Quarry. The day after the tragedy, there were youths once again swimming.

File pic from August 2021 issued by Ormskirk and Rural West Lancs Police of worrying image of teens 'putting their lives at risk' at East Quarry in Appley Bridge
Picture from August 2021 issued by Ormskirk and Rural West Lancs Police of teens at East Quarry -Credit:Lancashire Police

Jamie's body was pulled from the water by firefighters after a drone was used to identify the exact location. The "lively and funny" teenager had drowned at a depth of 10 metres which was barely two metres from the edge.

An inquest held today (May 16) at Preston Coroner's Court heard that Jamie was the third boy to drown at East Quarry. In 1999, 17-year-old Craig Croston died at the site, followed by 14-year-old Miracle Godson in 2015.

Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley warned that it's "only a matter of time" before another fatality.

Property developer Peter O'Dowd bought the Dawber Delph quarry in 2018 and said it is an "uphill struggle" to prevent youths from gaining access. "We're not allowed to physically touch them and remove them," he added. "They like to jump in from as high as possible. I've always said that it's like putting a lollipop in front of a child and telling them not to lick it."

As trespassing isn't a criminal offence, police are powerless unless there is evidence of an crime having being committed; such as underage drinking or drug use. Land-owners are not allowed to use force, particularly on children, to remove someone from the site.

Mr O'Dowd said he is keen to prevent more youngsters from risking their lives by draining and filling the quarry. Permission to empty the quarry of water comes via the Environment Agency while approval to fill and subsequently develop the land comes under the remit of Lancashire County Council.

At the outset of the inquest Dr Adeley warned those in attendance, including several local residents and councillors, that the hearing "isn't a planning meeting" and it is not within his jurisdiction to ascertain how or why permission to develop the site hasn't yet been granted.

West Lancashire Borough Council is responsible for ensuring land owners comply with the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 by ensuring there is an appropriate barrier to prevent people from accidentally falling into the quarry.

Signs warning of 'deep water' and telling people to 'keep out' are placed along the perimeter fence including right next to the section where Jamie and his friends entered the site.

Environmental health officers are satisfied that the existing palisades and heras fencing at East Quarry is sufficient but issues have been raised with repair logs. No enforcement action has been taken against Mr O'Dowd or his companies.

Jamie's mum Steph Lewin described her son, an apprentice bricklayer, as "funny, loud, lively and full of energy". She said that although he had ADHD it didn't affect his ability to assess danger but he was a "risk-taker".

Mrs Lewin said that Jamie, who loved going to the gym and boxing, did have some swimming lessons while at school but "he didn't do particularly well and wasn't the best swimmer". She had "no idea" he was visiting places such as East Quarry with his friends and if she had she would have said "you can't swim very well; don't do that".

Adam Ringe, Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service's drone pilot, said that the temperature of large bodies of still water can plummet rapidly just one metre below the surface. This is due to a phenomenon known as a thermocline which is is the transition layer between the warmer mixed water at the surface and the cooler deep water below.

Superintendent Gary Crowe said that police receive dozens of calls every year over concerns about young people accessing the quarry. "There is a real determination to bypass the fencing," Supt Crowe said.

"That can be through using angle-grinders, car jacks and even by using vehicles to pull fence panels away but if someone is a simple trespasser and they are not committing any offence then it is a civil matter.

"We can advise them but if they choose to carry on we have no power. But we do try to encourage them to do so and we sleep more soundly knowing that we've got them out."

Concluding that Jamie's death was accidental, Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley said: "This is the third fatality at this quarry. The problem of young men drowning at this quarry is not going to go away.

"In my view it will not matter what fence you erect; people will still access this site until a permanent solution is found. The solution rests with the owner, politicians and local government."