Boy dies in freezing river after being ‘egged on’ by friends and losing rock paper scissors game

A teenager died after jumping into a freezing reservoir following a game of rock paper scissors.

Sam Haycock, 16, was at Ulley Reservoir in South Yorkshire with his mates celebrating the end of term on the afternoon of May 28 2021.

After losing at rock paper scissors, he leaped into the body of water and drowned after ‘cannonballing’ from a nearby bridge, Yorkshire Live reports.

The water was dark, murky and had a strong current and Sam was unable to swim.

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An inquest at Doncaster Coroner’s Court heard that the teen, a popular boy, had only recently been diagnosed with autism and other complex medical problems.

Senior coroner Nichola Mundy heard evidence that Sam and his pals had been ‘egging’ each other on as to who was to make the first jump into the freezing water.

In the end the group of boys, none of whom were strong swimmers, agreed for two of them to play rock paper scissors to decide who would go first with Sam losing.

Sam Haycock and his dog Ruby

He jumped in but immediately his friends could see he was panicking and one of them, identified only as C, bravely leapt in and tried to save him.

One of several adults who were there at the time, Craig Pennington, said: “I could hear what sounded like young lads laughing and joking around.

“I could see four teenage boys, it sounded like they were getting more excitable. It appeared like they were egging each other to jump into the water.

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“One of the teenagers then started shouting: ‘Help me, help me’. I went to see what was happening, not realizing the urgency until I got next to the side of the bridge. It all happened so quickly.”

Sam Haycock as a young boy with his loving mum Gaynor

The court heard that one of his friends, only identified as ‘C’ bravely leapt in to try to save his friend but was unable to do so.

Mr Pennington added: “We assisted the teenager hanging onto the bridge, (‘C’), and between us we managed to get him out of the water.

“He kept saying: ‘Where’s my mate, where’s my mate?'”

Another man, Conna Lee King added: “I heard one of the teenage voices shouting: ‘I’m drowning, I’m drowning.'”

He said he was about 30 meters from the bridge and ran towards it. He said he helped haul ‘C’ out. He said: “He asked me to go back in for his mate.

“I replied saying I would go in but I couldn’t swim. It all happened so fast.”

The court heard a throw line was unsuccessfully used to try to rescue Sam.

Sam Haycock

A 999 call saw the emergency services arrive at the scene and a firefighter bravely leapt in to try to find Sam, but by then it was too late and his body was recovered later.

Kevin Burke, countryside and ecology manager for Rotherham Council, said there were problems with antisocial behavior in the area.

He said a ranger had been threatened and there had been an occasion when, for amusement, glue had been placed in the locks of the code box for the throw line.

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Asked by the coroner about why floating rings were not available, he said it was difficult as they were quite heavy to throw and some antisocial people used them for swimming.

Ulley reservoir near Doncaster, Yorkshire

He said the water was 26-30 feet at its deepest and although the first few inches would be relatively warm, once you got below the first foot it would be very cold.

At nearby Thrybergh Country Park, there was managed swimming from June/July but even then wetsuits had to be used.

Mr Burke said the antisocial behavior was a “disgrace” but he had been working with Sam’s father, Simon, on Operation Keep Safe to improve safety standards around the reservoir.

Ms Mundy concluded that Sam died from drowning and his death was an accident.

She said: “Because he didn’t have any fear or sense of danger he said he would jump in first.

“The temperature of the water would have been a significant shock to Sam and to Sam’s system that would have sent him into panic. His friend’s efforts to save him were valiant.

Sam was celebrating the end of term with friends

“His friend was very brave but it simply was not possible for him to save his friend despite his best efforts.”

And she slammed the behavior of antisocial people who visit the area and derail the equipment for their own amusement saying this “put lives at risk.”

“Rotherham Council has a constant battle to try to ensure that they remain in place,” she added.

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The hearing was attended by four members of the Haycock family including his father and Sam’s mum Gaynor who clutched a photograph of her son with his beloved pet dog Ruby for the duration of the proceedings.

Sadly, the same reservoir claimed another life just a few months later in September, that of 19-year-old Khizar Hayat.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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