"I wasn't going to stand there and watch a little boy die"

HEROES: HEROES: Inspector Sean Kent and Sgt Phil Stayte

EVIDENCE: CRIME SCENE: Chris Grady’s Vauxhall Vectra

First published in Headlines Worcester News: Photograph of the Author by , @jamessavageWN #worcsnews

IT was a typical day for Inspector Sean Kent and Sergeant Phil Stayte.

On Thursday, February 11, 2010, the two police officers were due to give a breakfast talk at the Broadway Probus club.

Inspector Kent, aged 40, had gone to Evesham police station to pick up Sergeant Stayte, 55, and the two were taking part in a routine conference call when, at 9.20am, they heard a 999 call had been made.

It was a report of a car entering the river with children possibly trapped inside.

Other officers had already responded but sensing they might be needed, the men decided to divert to the river too.

They grabbed a water safety kit – an orange box containing throwing lines and life jackets – and drove the two thirds of a mile to Boat Lane on blue lights. They arrived about four minutes later.

Insp Kent said: “I started running towards the bank and the first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t see anything in the water.

“The river was quite high because we’d had some rain. There was nothing to see, no car.

“I looked down a bit and I saw a man in the water – Chris Grady, though I didn’t know this at the time.

“He just seemed to be treading water really, splashing around a bit but he seemed OK.

“Within two or three seconds, and it really was that quick, I saw a bundle and I thought very briefly, ‘Perhaps he’s taken his coat off to fill with air’.

“Then I noticed this bundle had a head.

“I thought, straight away that it was a child and that it was a boy.

“I also remember thinking at the time that he wasn’t very old.”

At that time, the two officers had little information and did not know if the car had left the road by accident or whether any occupants had scrambled free or been thrown clear.

So the men, both fathers-of-two, said they were shocked to see Ryan in the water and Insp Kent remembered feeling an instant connection between the boy in front of him and his own son, who was about the same age.

Sgt Stayte said: “It was a really stark moment for me.

"This bundle of clothing moved over in the water and all of a sudden, there was the face of this little boy with his head towards me.

“It was a porcelain-type face, completely expressionless, completely devoid of anything. It was like a mask.

“It was only there for a second or so and the current took the little boy back into the water again.

“At this point I thought, ‘This little boy is not going to get out of there’.

“I felt that if we didn’t do something, he would die.”

Rescuers are advised to try to help casualties in water from the bank to avoid becoming a victim themselves, so other officers had already started to throw ropes towards Ryan and Chris Grady.

But Insp Kent and Sgt Stayte quickly realised Grady was making no effort to save himself or his son.

Insp Kent said: “My own view was that he was not going to drown any time soon.

"He was holding himself up in the water, his upper torso was exposed.

“Ryan was different. He was in quite a state really.

“He barely had his head up and was flapping around a bit and was uncoordinated. His head was starting to bob down.

“It momentarily went under the water. He struggled back up but my view was that if he went under again, he wasn’t going to come back up and we wouldn’t find him again.

“I was shouting, ‘Grab hold of your boy, grab your lad’.

“We were all shouting that but for whatever reason, Grady just did not acknowledge us.

“He didn’t make a play for the rope. He didn’t take hold of Ryan’s coat and Ryan was within his reach. That was really quite worrying.”

The officers were up against terrible conditions as it was a cold and frosty morning and they could see only an inch beneath the surface of the swirling, murky brown river.

Insp Kent said: “I’d got this real fear because Ryan was rolling, he was going down. I thought, ‘Once he’s gone, he’s gone’.

“I remember looking around and thinking that it was going to take them another minute or two to re-throw the line and that’s going to make no difference to what happens.

“It was quite clear that somebody had to go in and get him – and it was not something that I could ask anybody else to do. I just jumped in. I thought that I would do what Chris Grady won’t do.

“I wasn’t confident that I could get Ryan back to the bank because the river was moving.

“It was quite deep and they were quite a way out, but the very least I could do was grab Ryan and keep him up and they could throw me the rope.

“I had absolute faith in everybody on the bank.

“There was no doubt in my mind that they would get me out. I just wanted to grab hold of Ryan.”

A few feet away, Sgt Stayte had also started to scramble down the riverbank. He had fished in the river and knew there was a ledge underneath the water which extended for a couple of metres before dropping down.

He said: “I wasn’t aware that Inspector Kent had gone into the water.

“I was thinking that as long as Chris Grady doesn’t use his line, then there’s no chance of rescuing the little boy.

“I was not prepared to watch a little boy die in front of me, it’s not what I joined the force to do.

“I slid down the bank and got on the ledge where the water comes to just below your knees.

"I stepped off and it goes from your knees to just below your neck.

“I can still remember the feeling now. I took a sudden intake of breath because it was really cold. It was like being plunged into an icy bath.”

Meanwhile, Insp Kent had reached Ryan and was trying to lift his head above the water, which was a desperately cold 4C.

He said: “I was out of my depth and as I tried to lift him up, it just pushed me under.

“I wasn’t able to lift his face from the water but I had him so he didn’t go under. I pushed Ryan to Phil and in that moment, we spun him over.”

Sgt Stayte said: There didn’t appear to be any sign of life. I think his eyes were open. They were staring up.

“He was completely and utterly motionless.”

Sgt Stayte was unable to push Ryan out of the water alone but officers on the riverside helped by pulling him up by his collar.

The two men then dragged themselves out.

Click here for our all of our coverage of this tragic case.

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