'We thought cries were laughter': Friend tells of moments leading to teen’s tragic death

By Marion Brennan | Netherton | News | Published:

A family friend of the teenager who died following a sea rescue in Wales has spoken of the minutes leading up to the tragedy.

Blake Ward died after being rescued from the sea off the Welsh coast

Rebecca Ray, of Coseley, said she initially thought cries for help were shrieks of laughter.

They had just arrived at Tywyn North on the west coast when 16-year-old Blake Ward, from Dudley, and two other teenagers got into difficulties in the sea.

The large family group had travelled to the beach last Tuesday in five cars and the older youngsters had gone on ahead while the rest of the party unpacked.

Rebecca Ray in front of Blake Ward, aged 16, and his girlfriend Stephanie Evans, with Michelle Evans, 14, and Brandon Harrison, 16, directly behind Blake

Mrs Ray said: “They were only five minutes ahead of us.

“When we got to the beach I could hear them shouting and at first I thought it was screams of laughter. Then I said to my sister ‘Are they in trouble?’

“We dumped everything and ran over to the rocks.”

Hillcrest School and Community College, where Blake had recently taken his GCSEs


Her brother Michael Payne jumped into the sea to try and rescue them with a lifebuoy and then helped to drag them to safety.

Blake, who moved to Wolverhampton six months ago, was given CPR at the scene by a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteer before being airlifted to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool. But he was found to have suffered extensive brain damage and died on Saturday, four days later.

His mother and father, who were not part of the holiday group, were at his hospital bedside.

Blake, second right, with, from left, Brandon Harrison, Amy Evans, Michelle Evans, Stephanie Evans, and, Rebecca Ray, far right


The other teenagers who were rescued, Brandon Harrison, also 16, and 14-year-old Michelle Evans, were taken to Bangor Hospital for treatment but have since been released.

Mrs Ray revealed that tragic Blake’s organs were donated following a family conference.

The teenager’s liver, kidneys, pancreas and heart valves were removed to help save the lives of other sick patients.

Flowers outside the school

She said that they were only two days into their holiday when tragedy struck.

“We’d arrived on the Sunday and the weather had not been too good, so on Tuesday when the sun came out we headed for the beach,” she said.

There were about 20 in the family party, which had included her siblings, nephew and nieces and some of their partners.

Blake, who had just left Hillcrest School and Community College in Dudley, after sitting his GCSEs, was the boyfriend of Mrs Ray’s daughter Stephanie.

Blake had planned a career in the Army, said Mrs Ray.

He was extremely fit but was not a strong swimmer, she added.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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