Nine year old boy drowned trying to save his friend while police were delayed because operations didn’t know which force to send to help

A nine-year-old lad drowned after jumping into a river to save his friend, while a 999 call handler didn’t know which force to send to help.

Little Kai Lambe plunged into a weir in the river Dove, near Tutbury, Staffs, when he saw his pal struggling against the current.

But Kai, who was not a strong swimmer, got into trouble in the 6ft deep water, and drowned, an inquest heard yesterday (WEDS) – while officers were delayed getting to the scene because the call handler passed on the call to the wrong force.

Kai Lambe, from Hatton, Derbyshire slipped into the weir at Tutbury Mill and got into difficulty.

Kai Lambe, from Hatton, Derbyshire slipped into the weir at Tutbury Mill and got into difficulty.

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh heard that Kai and three friends had been playing near the river on August 22, when one of them had got into trouble.

Brave Kai slid down a fish pass which runs over the weir after seeing a friend struggling against the current – but got into trouble himself.

Detectives believe that although some of the boys had entered the water, Kai didn’t go into the river until he saw his friend, Connor, was struggling.

The boys frantically tried to get to Kai, who was seen waving for help before disappearing beneath the surface. A dog walker then raised the alarm, dialling 999.

But police were grilled by the coroner after it emerged there had been a delay sending officers to the scene, because there was a dispute over whether the area was covered by Staffordshire or Derbyshire Police.

When the 999 call was made by a dog walker it was directed to the force in Derbyshire. Five minutes later the call handler then passed it over to the neighbouring county as that was where the incident was.

But coroner Andrew Haigh suggested that as it was vital to get to Kai as quickly as possible, officers should have been sent immediately before worrying about which force was responsible. He is to file a report with Derbyshire Police in a bid to avoid any similar incidents in the future.

Inspector Darren Abbott, of Derbyshire Police defended the call handler, saying his actions were ‘standard practice’ but agreed that, on this occasion, officers should have been sent to the scene right away.

Mr Haigh said: “A report comes in that a child may be drowning in an emergency situation and you are aware somebody is calling from the border; wouldn’t it be appropriate to send officers immediately?”

Inspector Abbott responded: “In this case I agree with you.” He added that saving lives was ‘always at the top of the list in terms of priorities’ and refuted suggestions staff needed retraining.

Mr Haigh said: “It makes sense that Derbyshire officers attend straight away. I accept it may be protocol but the response should be ‘let’s save the person on the border, let’s get officers there’.”

Although the spot was said to have been used by children for ‘generations’, the coroner raised concerns about a lack of warning spelling out the dangers of the weir.

Detective Sergeant Kerry Shaw, of Staffordshire Police, told the hearing at Burton Town Hall: “We came to the conclusion Kai entered the water after seeing his friend getting into trouble.

“He was seen to struggle and it becomes apparent he is in danger. It is fair to say the panic among the children set in.”

Mr Haigh concluded Kai was just a ‘happy-go-lucky little lad having fun’ before tragedy struck.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said: “Over the years it has been common for young people visiting this location to go swimming and indeed go down the fish pass, which has been used as a slide for generations too.

“I do accept Kai goes to do this; there is no evidence any improper force or pressure that encouraged him but I accept the circumstances are unclear.

“Kai was not a swimmer, he was described as being a very weak swimmer. The height of the water varies greatly. Where Kai was found it was at least 6ft.”

Villagers in Hatton were left stunned by Kai’s death, with hundreds of people turning out for his funeral last month.