A “beautiful, popular, vibrant” six-year-old boy died after falling into a fast-flowing river on a sunny August afternoon, an inquest heard.
An idyllic summer day spent fishing, playing and eating sausages on the bank of the River Stour in Kent quickly became a nightmare when little Lucas Dobson fell into the water.
Despite desperate attempts to save him, the strong currents “sucked him in” and he was swept away, an inquest heard.
A huge search involving divers, dogs and drones was launched, with the local community coming together to help, but Lucas’ body was found four days later.
An inquest into his death is being held at the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone, on Thursday, attended by a dozen of Lucas’ family and friends.
Area coroner Joanne Andrews concluded that Lucas’ tragic death was an accident.
In an emotional statement after the inquest, some of Lucas’ family said his death was “entirely preventable”.
They called for greater awareness of the risks posed by rivers.
Lucas’ mother Kirsty Furze was not present at the inquest and her family said she could not face it due to the “devastating” effect the death has had on them all.
The coroner heard that Lucas’ father Nathan Dobson owned a 25ft boat and the pair would go out on the river every weekend, something Lucas loved to do.
They and some friends had been relaxing by the river in Sandwich, Kent, on August 17 2019 when tragedy struck.
Family friend James Fromage described the heart-wrenching moment when without warning Lucas tried to jump across to a boat where other children were playing.
He said: “He tried to jump on and just dropped like a pencil straight into the water.”
Mr Fromage said he rushed over but could not fit down the gap Lucas had fallen into.
He went to the other side of the mooring and jumped into the river to swim over, quickly joined in the water by Lucas’ father and two other men.
Heartbroken father Nathan Dobson told the inquest that he had been working on a nearby boat when he heard noises.
He said: “I looked down, it must have been less than a minute and then I heard a commotion.
“I just saw the look on James’ face and he said it’s Lucas.”
Four men including Mr Dobson jumped into the river to try and rescue Lucas, battling against the fast current.
Breaking down into tears, Mr Dobson said: “It goes fast, very fast.
“(I) felt my legs sort of get washed straight away.
“It was hard to hold on.”
He stuck his head underwater to try and find Lucas but the visibility in the murky river was poor.
“I wanted to see him come up. He didn’t come up once.
“No one saw him he got sucked out like a bath plug.
“It just sucked him in.”
Emergency services were called and arrived swiftly, but Lucas was nowhere to be found.
After four days of desperate searching using divers, dogs and drones his body was found on the morning Wednesday August 21.
Detective Sergeant Lauren Craig, who led the investigation into the tragedy, said she did not know to this day if a lifejacket would have saved Lucas.
His cause of death was given as immersion, the inquest was told.
Coroner Joanne Andrews gave a shortform conclusion saying that Lucas’ death had been an accident.
She offered her “deepest sympathies” and said: “I appreciate how terribly tragic the events were on that day.
“I hope that now the inquest has been concluded it will allow you all to recall the fun memories you have of Lucas.”
Outside the inquest, Lucas’ grandmother Donna Kentfield and much of Lucas’ family gave an emotional statement through solicitor Neil Ryan.
They said: “Lucas Dobson was a beautiful, popular, vibrant six-year-old boy.
“He loved singing, dancing, cars and bikes.
“His loss has had a devastating effect on his family, so much so that Lucas’ mother Kirsty could not even face being here today.
“The events which led to Lucas’ death were entirely preventable.
“The family are devoting all their efforts to ensuring that Lucas’ death brings greater awareness to safety on the river, greater care and attention is taken when children are present and that buoyancy aids are always used.”
Nearly 500 mourners attended his funeral at St George’s Church in Deal in September, wearing red in support of Lucas, some had also dyed their hair.
Mr Dobson, delivered an emotional eulogy, saying: “You were my strength when I was weak.
“You were the light that shined in the dark.
“I’m sorry you had to leave so soon.”
Reverend Peter Ould paid tribute to the “ordinary people” who did so much to help with the search for little Lucas.
Members of the emergency services were honoured with a standing ovation.