River drowning: Father bought rowing boat days earlier
The father who died with this three-year-old son when their boat capsized in a swollen river had recently bought it as a present for his young children.
Julian Mynott, an antiques dealer, was swept away by the rapids as he desperately fought to save his son Freddie and two other children, believed to be his older son, aged seven, and daughter, six.
Locals and police waded into the fast-flowing river and managed to pull the two older children to safety. The bodies of Mr Mynott and Freddie, who had only just turned three, were found later.
Yesterday, as the small village they lived in was plunged into grief, a resident said the tragedy happened the first time Mr Mynott had been in the rowing boat.
He had bought the boat for his wife Emma, 41, and the children only days before. The local resident feared that the family, who had only recently moved to the village, had been caught out by the how fast the water moved through the river’s weir.
He said: “Last weekend he spoke to my son and said, 'Look, I've bought my kids a boat'. He was very excited, and I don't think he had taken it out on the water before Saturday, because the weather was so bad.
"I was sitting in my house, which backs onto the river, when my girlfriend came running in screaming that there were children in the river.
"We ran straight down there and we could see the father in the water trying to swim towards his son, but the current was too strong.
"The boat had gone straight over the weir and capsized. The dad was trying to get back to the boat where he thought his children were.
"A man on the other side of the river actually waded into the water and managed to get hold of a little boy - he was about 10.
"He was desperately trying to hold the boy's head above the water, but he was being pulled under too.
"Me and my girlfriend grabbed a life ring and threw it over to him. The current carried it right over to him and we pulled him back.
"When we pulled him out of the water we realised there was a little girl too - her foot had become tangled in the rope and she had been dragged upside down to the shore.
"We didn't even know she was there.
"One of the neighbours started performing CPR on her and my girlfriend sat with the little boy and gave him a blanket.
"The little boy turned to her and said 'Are we on dry land now?' I don't think he realised what had happened, and thought it was all part of a big game he was playing with his dad.”
He added: "The weir is absolutely deadly. Another child, a teenager, died in a canoe in exactly the same place a few years back.
"There needs to be something put up to stop people taking boats out there - if you don't know the river well, you'd never know how deadly it is.
"It is an absolute tragedy - the whole village is still in shock.”
Yesterday Mr Mynott’s sister, Stephanie Skudder, said: “He was such a great father, he will be really missed. His death has left a big hole in our family.”
The tragedy happened around 5.30pm on Saturday close to the family’s home in the village of Barford, Warwicks. Their £600,000 house backs onto the River Avon and the family are understood to have moved there from Warwick to have a house close to the river.
Mr Mynott, who runs an antique’s dealership in Warwick, took the children out for a ride on the water but got caught up in “white water” conditions on the weir, which was fast moving and had been swollen by the recent heavy rain.
Polly Bonner-Evans, the landlady of The Joseph Arch, a nearby pub, said she tried to help police in the early stages of the rescue using a boat belonging to her parents but struggled because of the conditions.
"They were out in the boat and they were up the stream past our house, then they came back towards their own house going home, but the current was just too strong.
"A neighbour of ours went in a boat with a motor and I gave him life rings," Ms Bonner-Evans said, "but he couldn't make it because the current was too strong."
Ms Bonner-Evans, who scattered rose petals from a bridge above the river in Burford, added: "There is a massive feeling of devastation in the village at the moment because it's so sad and it's such a tragic thing to happen."
Charles Barlow, who lives in Barford, said the river was known to be dangerous.
"As kids we used to canoe up and down the river with Scouts, so if ever the river was the way it is now we wouldn't go anywhere near the weir," he said.
"There's two weirs - there's, if you like, the main weir, which is where the mill was and that's sheer, and that's what I think they've gone over.
"There's a second weir a bit further up that takes the main body of the water at about 45 degrees.
"From what I've heard and where the family live I think they've gone over the main weir, the sheer weir, which is probably about two or three metres high.
"I think there's a step at the bottom of it so if they've hit the step I would have thought any boat would have been in trouble."
Assistant Chief Fire Office Jim Onions, of Warwickshire fire brigade, said: "Immediately beneath the weir there is very deep water and faster running water further down.
"These are white water conditions and very dangerous."
He added: "There may be an opportunity in the future to talk about safety concerns but now our thoughts are with the family I have seen emergency workers bent over in tears you don't often see that."