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My son died in same river where toddler Xielo Maruziva fell – tragedies will keep happening unless key change is made

THE GRIEVING mum of a teen who died in the same river that toddler Xielo Maruziva fell into four weeks ago has told of her pain. 

Kaleigh Wharton’s son Kieran, 13, devastatingly died after being pulled from the River Soar in Leicestershire in May last year.

Kaleigh with her son Kieran who drowned in the River SoarSWNS

Xielo Maruziva fell in the river last month

Search teams are still scouring the area for the missing boy

Kieran’s mum has told of her heartbreak

Similarly, little Xielo, two, slipped into the River Soar on February 18, with his dad desperately leaping in to try to save him.

Devastatingly, despite extensive searches of the swollen waterway, the tot hasn’t been seen since – and searches are now in their fourth week. 

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

She believes that her son got into difficulty in the river when it got too deep and due to him not being a strong swimmer, he 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.

Speaking to The Sun, she explained: “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 today they find that little boy’.”


Now, Kaleigh has launched a petition to reinstate annual swimming lessons in schools that have been lost so another family doesn’t have 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 believes steps also need to be made at the River Soar where her son died.

Everyday I cross my fingers and think please let today be today they find that little boy.

Kaleigh Wharton

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.”

Advice for parents from The RLSS Drowning Prevention Society

To keep your kids safe…

Always lock gates and fences to stop kids from gaining access to water.
Securely cover all water tanks and drains.
Empty paddling pools and buckets straight after use, and turn them upside down.
Always supervise bath time, and empty the bath immediately afterwards.
Check the safety arrangements before going on holiday – is there a lifeguard at the beach?
Check bathing sites for hazards, and always read the signs.
Always swim with your kids, and beware of dangerous rip currents in the sea.
Never use lilos and dinghies in open water – there are drownings every year where people are dragged out to sea.
Don’t swim near rocks, piers, breakwater or coral.
Swim parallel to the beach, and close to the shore.

The search for the Xielo is in its fourth week, with the focus 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.”

Kieran Wharton was just 13 when he diedSWNS

Specialist rescue teams have been scouring the river



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