VIDEO: Canal death investigation still in its "early stages"

EARLIER reports that an 11-year-old boy died after “tombstoning” into a canal have been retracted by emergency services.

VIDEO: Scroll down for a press conference from the scene.

Specialist crews recovered the boy’s body from the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal, off Stonerow Way, near Parkgate Retail Park at around 11pm on Thursday after a four-hour search.

Gary Willoughby, watch manager and watch safety officer at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, told reporters earlier this morning that the boy was part of a group who had been seen “tombstone jumping” from a bridge.

But at a joint press conference this afternoon Stewart Nicholson, group manager for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Helen Lewis, acting chief inspector for South Yorkshire Police, said they were investigating a number of lines of enquiry and the circumstances around the incident were not yet clear.

Mr Nicholson said: “At this time the investigation is very much in its early stages. I think it’s only right and proper that we let that investigation take its time and allow it to be thorough.

“We will follow all lines of enquiry and all lines of investigation. But at this time my thoughts are with the family and friends of that individual.

“From the information we were given it’s looking like he wasn’t alone. He was with other youths, but they weren’t present when we arrived.”

Helen Lewis, acting chief inspector for Rotherham at South Yorkshire Police, said: “At the moment we have the tragic death of this young boy and our hearts go out to his family. It's a tragedy to go into the water and die in such circumstances.

“Speaking to the investigation team, I have been told that there wasn’t another boy who went to the hospital.

“Obviously we are appealing for witnesses. I need to know if anyone was here between 6pm and 7pm. If you did go to hospital, please get in touch with us. We need to make sure you are safe and well.

“If your son or daughter is going through any difficulties, speak to Rotherham social care. But please, mums and dads, speak to your children tonight and tell them not to go in the water.”

The press conference came after South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue chief Mr Willoughby, said: “We know that there was a group of boys swimming in the canal. We don’t know exactly what happened yet.

“We believe that the boy that tragically lost his life jumped from this pass-over bridge so until we get the coroner’s report we can’t really say whether he drowned or whether he died from injuries sustained from the actual jump or fall.

“It’s a very popular place, unfortunately, but the popular thing at the minute is a past-time called tombstoning. It’s aptly named but it’s jumping from unknown heights into unknown depths of water.

“The problem is when they jump they don’t assess the water first, they don’t look at the risks, they don’t know what’s under the water or how deep it is or what’s in it.”

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