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‘Lovely’ girl, 15, died after being swept away by river while out with friends

An inquest investigating the circumstances surrounding her death was held at Pontypridd Coroners’ Court on Wednesday where she was described as a “lively” and “quirky” teenager

Nicola Williams died aged 15

A teenager who “put a smile on everyone’s face” died after being swept away by a river when she was out with friends, an inquest has heard.

Nicola Williams, known as Nikki died on August 21 last year in the River Rhymney.

Emergency services rushed to the river bank in Llanrumney, Cardiff, after the alarm was raised with police, coastguard, paramedics, and firefighters all attending the scene. Search boats and a helicopter were also deployed.

South Wales Police said previously that they were called to the scene at around 5.20pm and that the 15-year-old was located at around 6.40pm, Wales Online reports.

An inquest investigating the circumstances surrounding her death was held at Pontypridd Coroners’ Court on Wednesday where she was described as a “lively” and “quirky” teenager. She was also one of five siblings and the family reside in the Cardiff area.



Emma regularly visits the sport where her daughter was swept into the river
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Image:

Mark Lewis/Media Wales)




A statement read on behalf of her mother, Emma Williams, said: “Nikki was a lovely girl. I would describe her as lively, quirky. She would always put a smile on everyone’s face.”

On the day the tragic incident took place Ms Williams said her daughter asked if she could go out with friends. Nikki was told to return by 6pm but, later in the day, Ms Williams received a phone call from one of Nikki’s friends who told her: “I can’t find Nikki – she was in the river. I can’t see her.”

It was reported Nikki had been submerged in the water and reappeared before disappearing. It was believed she lost her footing.

As soon as they heard what had happened the family quickly went to the area near the river and tried to look for Nikki. When they couldn’t see her, and she failed to respond to them calling her name, the family called 999.

A statement provided by a friend of Nikki’s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was referred to by coroner David Regan. The statement said: “Nikki said she wanted to feel how cold the water was so she went in the water with her clothes on.”



Nikki as a young girl
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Image:

Emma Williams)




It was said she took a little while to cross the river and get to an area near a swing. “She was saying something like: ‘This is really strong’,” the statement continued. “She then got pulled and dragged with the water.”

Emergency services were called and fire officers assisted with the river rescue. The inquest was told officers used specialist equipment, including a raft, to try and rescue Nikki.

Christopher Jenkins, of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, was one of the officers who attended the scene. He told the inquest the river was around 20m wide and said they needed to get around three-quarters of the way across to the specified area.

He told the hearing part of the river was “quite shallow” but it was getting deeper as he made his away across. “I went in as deep as I could,” he said.

The inquest was told there were areas where the river was faster-flowing and Nikki was also said to be trapped in undergrowth.



Floral tributes were left at the scene last year
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Image:

Mark Lewis/Media Wales)




When asked if he had to release her from the debris Mr Jenkins said: “She had already been freed and she was lifted onto the raft.

“There was some tree growth above the water. Some debris had been caught up in that.”

Paramedics then attempted to save Nikki but she was later declared dead when treatment was stopped at around 7.20pm.

Jonathan Maidment, of Cardiff council, was questioned about the rope swing at the hearing.

He told the inquest the park ranger team would be responsible for aiding the removal of a rope swing in such areas if the issue was reported to the council.

After a report has been made he said such issues would be looked into as soon as possible.

When asked if a report was made about the rope swing at the scene he replied: “Not that I’m aware of, sir.” Mr Maidment admitted the swings are dangerous as they are considered a “potential hazard”. He added: “A child could fall from the swing into the water.”

Pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbeatter provided the medical cause of death as submersion having stated the evidence collected during the post-mortem examination was in keeping with signs of “accidental submersion”.



She was remembered as a sassy, fun teenage
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Image:

Mark Lewis/Media Wales)




Coroner Mr Regan accepted this finding when reaching his conclusion. While stating his findings Mr Regan said it seemed that the emergency services were “thorough” in their attempts to save Nikki.

Mr Regan told the court: “It seems to be right to record a conclusion that Nicola Williams died as the result of an accident.”

Following the hearing a Cardiff council spokesman said: “This was a truly tragic case and our thoughts are with Nicola’s family at this very difficult time.

“The findings of the coroner reinforce advice that swimming or playing in rivers, or in Cardiff Bay, can be dangerous and can lead to loss of life due to unknown currents and water temperatures. The council will continue to support the emergency services on all matters relating to water safety in Cardiff’s watercourses.”


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