Dad’s heartbreak after son, 2, drowns in family’s back garden
A heartbroken dad whose two-year-old son drowned in a back garden pond has made an emotional plea to parents as warm weather returns to Britain.
Martyn Chaney is still wracked with immense grief 13 years after his son Ashley fell into a 3ft deep pond and drowned.
The toddler had somehow sneaked outside and was only gone for a few moments before his dad found him in the water.
It’s only now that Mr Chaney, of Redcar, North Yorkshire, feels able to again talk publicly about the tragedy, telling Gazette Live he wants to prevent the same tragedy from happening to another family.
He said: “It was a tragic accident but obviously, you look back and wonder what you could have done differently.
“It’s something I live with every day but hopefully I can at least help prevent it happening to another family.”
With the warm weather approaching and a decent Bank Holiday weekend expected, he’s urging every adult with kids to watch them near water – from the sea or swimming pools to back garden ponds or paddling pools.
Mr Chaney, 39, was living in Bursledon, Hampshire, with his ex-wife Ruth and family when the pond tragedy occurred on March 19, 2005.
It’s believed blue-eyed Ashley had wandered off in search of a football. He’d only been gone a few moments until his father and others realised what had happened – but a few moments was all it took.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Mr Chaney made public appeals for people to fill their ponds in, and to watch for children near water.
Since then, he hasn’t talked publicly about it much, although rarely a day goes by without Ashley being in his thoughts.
Advice for people with garden ponds
People with garden ponds are urged to:
Grille them – preferably with a rigid metal grille rather than flimsy chicken wire.
Fence them – but with a fence that’s at least 1.1m (3.6ft) tall and with locked access points such as gates.
Fill them – perhaps make a flowerbed or even a sandpit.
He said: “I don’t want Ashley to have died in vain. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my loss and now I want to use Ashley’s name to prevent this tragedy happening to another family.”
Recalling that terrible day, Mr Chaney said: “I’d put the pool in, I had a fence around it, the back door was always closed, we kept the kids away from it.
“It still plays on my mind. To this day, I can’t realise how he even got there.
“I didn’t fully realise the dangers at the time. Yes, it made the garden look nice but even a few inches of water can be deadly.”
The dad, who had been working out the front of their terraced home, recalls frantically running through the house, jumping the stair gate and running out of the back door – but it was already too late.
Mr Chaney, a barman at the Redcar Central Hotel, says he, with the pub’s backing, wants to raise awareness of the issue – and some money for a relevant charity.
He added: “I just want to raise awareness of safety around water. Keep an eye on your kids around ponds, paddling pools and things like that.
“It hit my grandfather very hard and I wouldn’t have been comfortable to do this with him around. But now, I just feel I have to tell Ashley’s story again to try and ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. I think the time is right.
“I live near the boating lake and my heart’s in my mouth when I see kids running around there. I see the parents let them do it and think ‘no, watch them all the time – one trip and they’re in the water.’
“Ponds, swimming pools – even a paddling pool left unsupervised in the garden can have the same affect.
“But if what happened to us saves even one kid – if I can stop it happening to another family – then something positive can come out of such a tragedy.”
A spokesman for the Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents said that on average, five deaths of children aged under six occur in garden ponds every year, although there are also non-fatal incidents which can lead to devastating brain injuries.
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