Jamie drowned just two meters from quarry edge, it's feared his death won't be the last

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

On a sweltering summer day in 2022 five friends made their way to Appley Bridge.

It was the early evening of July 9, with temperatures still hovering around 20C. The lads were seeking some respite from the heat - East Quarry, close to Wigan, had become a hotspot for teenagers.

The group hopped on a train from Southport, where 16-year-old Jamie Lewin lived, before climbing over the site's boundary fence and made their way down the steep banking towards the cliff-edge.

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Despite being a "poor swimmer at best", Jamie followed one of his friends into the water-filled quarry, but less than two metres from the shore he found himself in trouble.

His friend in the water frantically tried to pull Jamie to safety. His other friends jumped fully clothed into the water to try and help, but were forced to dial 999 as they watched his body disappear beneath the surface, reports Lancs Live.

Firefighters, using a drone, recovered Jamie's body from the water. The "lively and funny" teenager had drowned at a depth of 10 meters, barely two meters from the edge.

The day after Jamie's death youngsters were once again seen swimming there.

Ormskirk and Rural West Lancs Police issued this picture of teens 'putting their lives at risk' at East Quarry in Appley Bridge in 2021, a year before Jamie died
Ormskirk and Rural West Lancs Police issued this picture of teens 'putting their lives at risk' at East Quarry in Appley Bridge in 2021, a year before Jamie died -Credit:Lancashire Police

An inquest at Preston Coroner's Court yesterday, May 16, heard Jamie was the third boy to lose his life at East Quarry. In 1999, Craig Croston, 17, drowned at the site, followed by 14 year old Miracle Godson in 2015.

Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley issued a warning, stating it's "only a matter of time" before another fatality occurs.

Property developer Peter O'Dowd bought the Dawber Delph quarry in 2018 and said preventing youths from trespassing on the site is an "uphill struggle". He said: "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 a crime has been 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.

As the inquest commenced, Dr Adeley reminded those present, including local residents and councillors, that the hearing wasn't "a planning meeting" and stressed that determining why development permissions haven't transpired yet isn't within his authority.

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 have deemed the current palisade and heras fencing at East Quarry adequate, although there have been concerns regarding repair records. To date, 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 noted that while he had ADHD, it did not impair his ability to judge danger, but acknowledged he was a "risk-taker".

Mrs Lewin said 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."

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