He was the third to die - the very next day, kids like him were back doing the same thing

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

On a sweltering summer's day in 2022, Jamie Lewin and four of his mates 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 had become a hotspot for teenagers.

The group hopped on a train from Southport, where 16-year-old Jamie lived, before climbing the site's boundary fence. Like countless others that summer, they navigated down the steep bank towards the cliff-edge.

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

His friend in the water frantically tried to pull Jamie to safety. The rest of the group plunged in fully-clothed in a bid to assist but were compelled to dial 999 as they witnessed his body disappear beneath the surface, reports Lancs Live.

He became the third person to drown at East Quarry. The day following the tragedy, there were youngsters back in the water swimming.

Firefighters retrieved Jamie's body from the water after a drone pinpointed the exact location. The "lively and funny" teenager had drowned at a depth of 10 metres, barely two metres from the edge.

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

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

Peter O'Dowd, a property developer who purchased the Dawber Delph quarry in 2018, described the challenge of preventing young people from accessing the site as an "uphill struggle". He added: "We're not allowed to physically touch them and remove them. 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 is not considered a criminal offence, police are unable to intervene unless there is evidence of a crime being committed, such as underage drinking or drug use. Landowners are also prohibited from using force, especially on children, to remove someone from the premises.

Mr O'Dowd expressed his eagerness to prevent more young people from risking their lives by draining and filling the quarry. The Environment Agency grants permission to drain the quarry of water, while Lancashire County Council approves the filling and subsequent development of the land.

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
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

At the beginning of the inquest, Dr Adeley cautioned those present, including several local residents and councillors, that the hearing "isn't a planning meeting" and it is not within his jurisdiction to determine why permission to develop the site hasn't yet been granted.

West Lancashire Borough Council is tasked with ensuring landowners adhere to the Mines and Quarries Act 1954, which includes maintaining a proper barrier to prevent accidental falls into quarries.

Signage alerting to 'deep water' and commanding the public to 'keep out' is installed along the perimeter fence, including adjacent to where Jamie and his friends accessed the site.

Environmental health officers have deemed the current palisade and heras fencing at East Quarry adequate, although concerns regarding repair logs have been noted. To date, no enforcement action has been taken against Mr O'Dowd or his companies.

Jamie's mother, Steph Lewin, remembered her son, an apprentice bricklayer, as "funny, loud, lively and full of energy". She acknowledged that while Jamie's ADHD did not impair his danger assessment abilities, he was known for taking risks.

Mrs Lewin recalled that Jamie, who had a passion for the gym and boxing, received some swimming instruction in school but "he didn't do particularly well and wasn't the best swimmer". Unaware of his visits to places like East Quarry with friends, she expressed that had she known, her advice would have been clear: "you can't swim very well; don't do that".

Adam Ringe, a drone pilot for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, explained that the temperature of large bodies of still water can drop dramatically just one metre below the surface due to a phenomenon known as a thermocline, which is the transition layer between the warmer mixed water at the surface and the cooler deep water below.

Superintendent Gary Crowe revealed that police receive numerous calls each year regarding concerns about young people accessing the quarry. "There is a real determination to bypass the fencing," Supt Crowe stated.

"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."

Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley, concluding that Jamie's death was accidental, 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."