Doncaster mum's 'stay out of the water' plea after latest heatwave tragedy a year after her son's death

A year ago, a grieving Doncaster mum was identifying her son’s body after he died jumping into a lake in a heatwave.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 08:27 am
Taylor Matthews family members, pictured l-r Alice Matthews, Nanna, Angelica, 15, sister and Toni, Auntie, pictured holding the crosses that will be placed at Skelbrooke Quarry in. Picture: NDFP-02-07-19-Matthews-1

But today, shocked mum Hayley Matthews has told of her shock at hearing of another death in open water during another spell of hot weather –  almost exactly a year after the tragic loss of her 19-year-old son.

Hayley’s son, Taylor Matthews, known as Tay, died after jumping into a lake at Skelbrooke on July 8 last year.

Taylor Matthews family members, pictured l-r Alice Matthews, Nanna, Angelica, 15, sister and Toni, Auntie, pictured holding the crosses that will be placed at Skelbrooke Quarry in. Picture: NDFP-02-07-19-Matthews-1

But Hayley said she was devastated this weekend to hear a man aged 29 had died after leaping into the River Don near Mexborough in similar hot weather nearly a year to the week after Taylor’s death, sparking her to call for people to be aware of the dangers.

Taylor's sisters Myah and Angelica, pictured by his grave. Picture: NDFP-02-07-19-Matthews-8

Police confirmed they had found a body in the River Don following a search, which was launched after a man was reported to have disappeared in the water on Saturday evening.

Divers found the body at 10am on Sunday morning following a seach of the river.

Officers had received a call on Saturday, June 29, at 3.55pm from a man who told them his friend had jumped into the river and not resurfaced, and emergency services were sent to the scene close the the Dearne Valley Leisure Centre.

Underwater search teams found the body of the 29-year-old man close to where he had gone missing on Sunday, June 30, at 10am.

Taylor Matthews. Picture: NDFP-02-07-19-Matthews-3

The dead man had not been named by police as the Free Press went to press.

The tragedy this weekend came just days after a warning against the dangers of open water swimming in the borough.

FCC Environment, which owns Skelbooke lake, where Taylor died in 2018, put out a warning of the dangers on June 18, during this year’s ‘Drowning Prevention Week’, which ran from June 14-24, and aims to reduce the number of drownings.

Hayley, from Bentley, has now urged people to stay away from open water, and cool down in public pools instead.

The River Don at Denaby Main and Mexborough. A man died in the river after jumping in on Saturday in hot weather

She said: “You may think its going to be fun, but think about your family. I was 36 and I had to identify the body of my own son and sign for a post mortem examination. I don’t want any more mothers to have to go through that.

“Now someone else has died jumping into cold water. Don’t do it.

“I don’t think people realise how dangerous it is. I just want to make sure no one else has to go through this.”

“My heart sank when I heard what had happened this weekend, that someone else had died jumping into cold water.”

His grandmother, Alice Matthews added: “It is the ripples it creates. His sister Angelica was 15, and on her 15th birthday she was sitting at a cemetery arranging flowers on her brother’s grave – it is not just the incident, it is everything after.

“No matter how good a swimmer you are, if your body shuts down there is nothing you can do.

And his aunt, Toni Matthews added: “Don’t it – imagine the heart break it could cause your mum. Tay would never have done what he did if he knew the pain it would cause.

Hayley’s son had gone to Skelbrooke last summer after going on a 60 mile cycle ride with friends. His last words to her before he left were ‘see you later’ before giving her a big hug.

He jumped into the water from a bank that was about 30ft high. An inquest later recorded he had died of immersion, where his body shut down due to the shock of the cold water, rather than drowning.

Hayley will meet friends of Taylor at the weekend to share memories of him.

Then she and her close relatives will visit the lake at Skelbrooke quarry on the anniversary of his death to leave crosses in his memory.

One cross will mark the point where emergency services pulled him from the water.

A second cross will be placed at the point from which he had jumped into the water.

Both will carry Taylor’s name, and state that he died at the quarry after jumping into the water. 

The family hope that it will deter others from doing the same, and have the support of the operators of the quarry, whose staff will meet them at the site.

His mum said: “Tay was an amazing lad. He was quiet. He went to Don Valley Academy, and then Doncaster College for a year, before getting an apprenticeship and training to be a mechanic.

“He left school at 16 and originally wanted to join the Royal Navy, but he was not fit enough.

“He loved cars and his bicycle. He was a strong swimmer, he never smoked and rarely drank alcohol.”

Hayley said one of hardest things was having no one to blame for what happened.

She said: “All I can do is blame the lake. I can’t blame my son. If he had died in a car crash I may have been able to blame another driver.”