SHARED PAIN

THE GRIEVING mum of a teen who died in the same river two-year-old Xielo Maruziva fell in four weeks ago has told of her pain.

Kaleigh Wharton’s son Kieran, 13, was pulled from the River Soar in Leicestershire after getting into difficulty in the water in May last year.

His mum believes the water got too deep and as he couldn’t swim, Kieran tragically drowned.

After three hours of searching, he was taken to hospital – but when Kaleigh and Kieran’s dad, Ben Wharton, arrived they were told he was dead.

Little Xielo slipped into the fast-flowing river on February 18, with his dad desperately leaping in to try to save him.

Devastatingly, despite four weeks of extensive searches, the tot hasn’t been seen since.

Kaleigh is now calling for major changes to be made to stop more children from drowning.

RIVER HAS CLAIMED ‘AN AWFUL LOT OF LIVES’
Speaking to The Sun, she said: “Ever since Kieran’s death all I’ve seen all over the news is people losing their lives in various bodies of water.

“Every time I see it it’s awful. It’s very triggering. It instantly takes you back to what you went through and you think: ‘Oh my god, now that family has got to go through it’.

“It was heartbreaking when the two-year-old fell in the same river. He isn’t the first and he won’t be the last. That river has claimed an awful lot of lives, unfortunately.

“When you’re a local and something like this happens all you want to do is help. The fact that they’ve still not found him is heartbreaking. All I want for that family is to have closure.

“I know that it’s tough to want that closure because no one wants to hear the fact that they’ve lost their child.

“But at the same time without that closure or chance to say goodbye, there is no way to move forward.

“Everyday I cross my fingers and think ‘please let today be the day they find that little boy’.”

‘CHANGE NEEDED’
Kaleigh has launched a Change.org petition to bring back annual swimming lessons in schools so no other family has to go through what she has.

She said: “Kieran was a typical teenage lad. He enjoyed spending time with his friends, playing pranks on his siblings and just generally was full of life.

“My thinking is that if a child was to find themselves in the same position that Kieran did then they would have more chance to save themselves.

“I hope that the alarming statistics of children drowning will go down. Kieran couldn’t swim because we couldn’t afford the high cost of swimming lessons.

“This is a tragedy that no family should ever have to face, and it’s one that could be prevented with the reinstatement of annual swimming lessons in schools.”

Kaleigh also believes steps need to be taken to improve safety by the River Soar where her son died.

She explained: “There are also no life buoys on one side of the river.

“There are on the pub side but there’s none on this side.

“It means when Kieran went under the other boys had to run up and across the bridge to the pub to get a life buoy.

“By then what use is that? By that time someone has drowned.”

The search for Xielo is in its fourth week, with expert divers focusing on the stretch of river around Watermead Park and Birstall.

Xielo’s parents described their son as a “cheeky, funny” boy who is “a bundle of joy”.

His mother said: “Me, his dad and the whole family are so heartbroken at what has happened.

“We thank everyone who has supported us and helped us during this time. We are extremely grateful for this.

“All we want is for Xielo to be found as soon as possible.”

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