The family of a toddler who fell through an algae-covered castle moat have spoken out about his terrifying two minutes under the water.
Quade Ballinger, three, fell into the water at Nunney Castle in Frome after believing it to be grass.
He then spent a staggering two minutes under the water as his family desperately searched for him, fearing the worst.
English Heritage has said it is taking the incident “very seriously” and have temporarily closed the site whilst the organisation investigates, reports SomersetLive.
Dad of four, Nick, 32, explained that he was visiting the attraction with most of his family, including his second-eldest daughter Aubree; Quade; his sister and her husband, Sam and Mark Britton; their two children; and his parents, Jayne and Brian Ballinger.
They had travelled from Southwick, near Burnham-on-Sea to visit the castle for the day.
Recalling when he realised his son was in the water Nick said: “We were inside the castle, I was with him, he was looking at one of the tiny little windows, he was right next to me and I was talking to my mum.
(Image: Nick Ballinger)
“It must have been 15 seconds, and my nephew Daniel, said he “couldn’t see Quade”, so we ran around the castle and that’s when the panic started to set in.
“We realised that he must be in the water, my brother in law started to look in but the algae on top means you can’t see in the water.
“I’m not sure what my he saw but that’s where we chose to jump in and I followed and that’s when we found him.
“It was thick, I jumped in with my eyes open and it’s such dirty water you couldn’t see a thing. it was pure luck we found him, if we jumped in the other side we wouldn’t have found him.”
He added: “It’s crazy that the number of people that were there… nobody heard it or saw it, it’s almost like the moss or weed was so dense and thick… there was no noise, no movement, no splashing, it shows how deadly it can be.”
Quade’s family and the English Heritage site believe that Quade had stepped into the water thinking it was grass.
“Children are naïve,” Nick said, “green is grass and they’re lower down and think it’s just a fun place to play. He’s not a silly boy he’s not going to jump in the water fully clothed, he knows some right from wrong.
“We’ve shown the moat to other children and asked what they thought it was and they said “grass”.”
Quade was in the water for approximately two minutes before he was pulled out. Luckily a member of the public had called an ambulance as soon as they saw the men jump in the water.
Since the accident, dad Nick said that he had tried to hold his breath for two minutes to imagine what Quade had gone through, he says that he “only managed it after 10 goes” – and pointed out that he’d been able to take a breath first.
(Image: Nick Ballinger)
Quade’s grandmother, a nurse for 41 years, who had recently come out of hospital herself after six weeks suffering with Covid-19 at the beginning of the year, resuscitated her grandson as the ambulance arrived.
Nick’s niece Lily then selflessly gave her jumper to help get Quade warm again.
Concerned about secondary drowning and the fluid in his lungs the care team called Wiltshire Air Ambulance to take Nick and his son to Bristol Children’s Hospital.
Nick said: “He was so cold. I don’t really remember a lot from the flight because he was so cold, he was shaking, when we got him to the helicopter, it was just really warm in there and he fell asleep in my arms.
“That’s when it hit me and the panic set in, it hit me what had happened. I’m not usually a person who cries but the whole flight I just was in tears.”
Quade’s mum, Lauren, was away with friends when the accident happened. As soon as they heard, they all came rushing back to be with the family.
Looking to the future Nick said that he and Lauren wanted to raise as much awareness as possible of the dangers of covered water such as that at the castle.
(Image: Nick Ballinger)
He said: “Now we’ve had a few days to process what happened and we know that he’s going to be fine and have no lasting damage. We want to raise awareness to other families because in a year’s time if it happened again something fatal could happen and you’d never forgive yourself.
“Even if we make a difference to one person or one family that’s what we’re setting out to do. One of our neighbours who we’ve only known for a few months shared it on Facebook and we’re overwhelmed by the response. It’s such a simple and costly mistake.”
Nick also added that the family wanted to thank the care they received from the ambulance crew and Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA).
He said: “You don’t ever think you’re going to need that service until you do and we’re hugely grateful to them.
“He’s had a remarkable recovery and he’s back terrorising the dogs, which is a huge weight off my shoulders.”
In a fundraiser set up by Lauren for WAA she wrote: “Previously I raised money for Wiltshire Air Ambulance for their outstanding life-saving efforts 365 days a year. Never, like most others, ever thought I would need them. Unfortunately, yesterday we did.
“The trauma and hurt that we are all suffering right now is huge. But it doesn’t bear thinking about had we not had an air ambulance available to us. This would’ve been an entirely life-changing scenario.
“Donations big or small – every penny counts. Thank you for saving our son.”