Mum’s heartbreak as son, 3, dies after falling into canal as they fed ducks

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A heartbroken mum has paid tribute to her toddler son who died after he fell into a canal while they were feeding ducks and swans.

Three-year-old Dylan Milsom’s tragic death in Newbury, Berkshire, occurred a day before Mother’s Day.

His mum Shelley Nardini, 36, jumped into the cold water to try to save Dylan, but she was unable to reach him as they were carried by the strong current in the Kennet and Avon Canal on Saturday afternoon.

Mum-of-two Ms Nardini, a social care worker, shared a photo of Dylan on Mother’s Day with a heart emoji, as other family members paid tribute to the youngster.

It came as the stretch of canal where the tragedy occurred was called a “potential danger zone” and there were calls for a barrier to be installed.

Despite Ms Nardini’s attempts to save her son, he was swept away almost a mile downstream before being pulled out of the water.

The mother and son were both rushed to hospital but Dylan was pronounced dead only hours later.

Ms Nardini was treated and later discharged.

Earlier this week, Dylan’s grandmother Jackie Arrowsmith told the Mirror that the family were too devastated to speak.

Paying tribute to Dylan, she posted a photo of the pair cuddling on a bench during a walk.

Commenting on Ms Nardini’s post, the gran wrote that she was “heartbroken”, adding: “Love him forever. My gorgeous grandson.

“It hurts like hell.”

Aunt Claire Arrowsmith posted: “Your beautiful, funny, cheeky little boy. We love you so much.”

Last year, Ms Arrowsmith shared photos of a walk along a canal in Newbury.

Ms Nardini commented: “Dylan loves walking along the canal to see all the boats – lucky we have this waking distance from our house.”

Almost 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for new safety measures at the site, including “a strong barrier in place to prevent accidents like this happening in the future”.

The petition, set up by local resident Briony Palmer, calls for the weir at Ash Bridge in Victoria Park to be fenced off.

Dylan’s aunt Claire wrote on the page: “Thank you so much for starting this petition. We were talking about starting one this morning.

“The little boy who fell in was my beautiful nephew. He was the sweetest, little monkey you could ever wish to meet.

“My sister did everything she could to save him but the current was just too strong. Thank you you all for signing.

“I hope and pray that nobody else ever has to suffer this awful heartbreak. Thank you again.”

Gwendoline Josey added: “Because my nephew died slipping into the canal.”

Ms Palmer, who set up the petition, told the BBC: “The weir at Victoria Park, by Ash Bridge, has long been recognised as a potential danger zone, with turbulent waters and a strong current rolling into the canal.”

She added: “You can’t help but think it looks dangerous. The area didn’t look safe and secure – the fencing is short and inadequate.”

West Berkshire Council said it would look into the matter.

Lynne Doherty, the council’s leader, said: “Our deepest condolences and thoughts go out to the family at this heartbreaking time.

“This incident seems to have occurred near to Ash Bridge next to the sluice on the canal.

“There is a public footpath and, according to land registry, the land and sluice are owned by the Canal and River Trust.

“This is a tragic incident which will be fully investigated by the emergency services.

“We will work with the police and the Canal and River Trust to fully understand what happened and how future incidents could be prevented.

“At this moment in time we are not aware of any similar incidents or near misses at this location but anything we can do to increase awareness of water safety will be looked into with the Canal and River Trust.”

The Canal and River Trust said it was working “to fully understand the circumstances” and it was “shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life”.

A spokesperson added: “We recognise and share the depth of local concerns reflected in the petition and will work with local partners, including the council, to undertake an investigation and make improvements where possible.”

Joe Bate, of the Dry Dock Company, a narrowboat maintenance company on the canal and near the scene, said emergency services descended on the canal to rescue the mother and child from the fast-flowing river almost a mile from where the child fell in.

Mr Bate added that he thought the automatic weir systems had contributed to the tragedy, with the river flowing faster than normal when the toddler plunged into the freezing water.

A fisherman, who would only give his name as Alan, was sitting in view of the flowers said: “They apparently found the three-year-old boy down by the allotments where they pulled him out – it’s nearly a mile downstream from where he went in.

“He fell in at Ash Bridge and must have been swept up and then gone down below the surface. He was only three, that is not nice. I wouldn’t want anybody to go in that water, not at any time.

“It’s a strong current at the moment because of all the rain we’ve had and it is really cold water all year around.

“We fish as much as we can down here. If a young lad goes in there, I don’t think he has much chance really because it is so cold. That would do it more so than anything.

“I think if anyone had gone in to help them they would have been in trouble themselves which is a shame, a real shame.”

Family and friends were supporting Ms Nardini and Peter Milsom, her partner and Dylan’s father.

A friend wrote on Facebook : “To a very dear family friend, whom I know will be reading every message with her broken heart.

“You did absolutely everything you could!!!! You are an amazing mummy and always will be.

“Rest in peace little man. You will be forever in our hearts.”

Inquiries on behalf of the Berkshire coroner were continuing into the incident, with a pathologist expected to carry out a post-mortem examination on the boy’s body to ascertain the exact cause of his death in the next few days.