The family of a Hartlepool teenager who was ripped from his older brother’s arms as he battled to save him in a tragic drowning accident have spoken of their heartache.
Daniel Atherton, 22, attempted in vain to save Curtis Atherton, 16, who got into difficulty while swimming underneath the High Force waterfall in Teesdale on June 14.
Though Daniel had managed to reach his little brother, the current was too strong, dragging the pair apart, and Curtis was later pronounced dead.
It’s believed he died from cold water shock before emergency services could reach him.
This week the family will say an emotional goodbye to the popular teenager and have set up a fund to help pay for funeral costs.
Any surplus money will be donated to the Great North Air Ambulance, which airlifted Curtis to hospital, and to pay for an emergency phone at the remote waterfall.
With no phone signal, other brother Jamie ran half a mile barefoot to the nearest hotel, his feet bleeding, to ring for help.
He also had to face the unimaginable task of telling parents Lisa Rogerson, 41, and Paul Coulson, 47, from Mulgrave Road, that their youngest boy had gone under the water.
Stepdad Paul, who has raised Curtis since he was one year old, said: “Curtis wasn’t the strongest of swimmers and he panicked.
“Daniel had managed to get hold of him, but the strength of the current dragged him away. “The last thing he saw was Curtis screaming his name, it’s been very tough for him.
“When we got the phone call from Jamie, Lisa just screamed and dropped the phone and we got dressed and went straight there.
“No child should ever have to break that news to their parents.”
The family’s funeral fund has already raised more than £700 of the £2,500 needed and Paul says the community’s support is helping them with their grief.
Though a funeral grant is available, it doesn’t pay for the full cost of the funeral, which is around £4,000.
“Up until now we’ve kept off the radar as we don’t want people feeling sorry for us,” said Paul. “It’s horrifying that a 16-year-old has died just four days before his 17th birthday and I know the community has been distraught.
“A complete stranger has donated £100 and others have donated £2. Even the £2 donations have filled my heart, people don’t have money but they’re doing this for us, it’s amazing.”
Curtis’ funeral will take place on Thursday, June 30, after which his ashes will be scattered at some of his favourite spots.
Paul said: “I’m disabled and Lisa is my carer so we live below the bread line. We went to the Co-Op and they have been absolutely fantastic, but this is the basic package, with a certain amount needing to be paid upfront.
“This whole thing is heartbreaking. All we want to do is grieve for our baby, we never expected to be planning his funeral.
“You never expect to have to do that for a teenager.”
The family moved to Hartlepool around a year ago and Curtis had attended Hartlepool College of Further Education before embarking on a construction apprenticeship.
He had planned to go to Sixth Form and the letter saying he’d passed the entrance interview arrived days after his death.
Paying tribute to his youngest son, Paul said: “He wasn’t like other teenagers in that he spent a lot of time at home with us. But he was typical in the respect that he was a cheeky lad, who liked his tracksuits and his rap music.
“He was a lovely lad and had just reached an age where he was planning his future.
“He said he wanted to one day be a businessman in a suit who drove a BMW.”
The family are channelling their grief to make a difference in the future and hope that an emergency phone will be installed at the waterfall where Curtis died.
The family would also like to have a plaque on the phone so Curtis will always be remembered and he will have a lasting legacy of helping other people at their time of need.
Paul said: “Because of where the waterfall is there’s no phone signal and Jamie had to run to the nearest hotel.
“We’ve been speaking to the police inspector and the owners, Raby Estates, who own the land about the possibility of a phone.
“Although there is orange life rings, the phone means if anything does happen they can get help quicker.
“They shouldn’t have been in the water but kids do these things and, if anything can come from this, we just don’t want it to happen to anyone else. We don’t want another family to have to go through this.”
• Anyone wanting make a payment through paypal can use Paul’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• To donate to the main funeral fund page visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/paul-coulsonphatso-1