THE devastated classmates of a little girl who died at a water park have paid tribute to their “sweet and caring” friend who “liked to make people smile”.
Kyra Hill, 11, had reportedly been tackling a giant inflatable assault course with around ten pals at Liquid Leisure Windsor in Datchet, Berks, when she vanished under the surface.
She did not return to the changing room, sparking chaos as parents and staff launched a desperate search to find her.
Around 40 adults dived into the lake as lifeguards borrowed goggles from guests to search under the inflatables.
Emergency services arrived at 3.55pm but Kyra was not found until 5.10pm and she could not be saved.
One 12-year-old, who played football with the schoolgirl, told the Mail Online: “Kyra was so kind.
“She was really smart, she was at the top of all our classes.
“She liked to make people smile, she cared about people.”
The pal said Kyra played for Coombe Wood School in Croydon.
Meanwhile, a mum of one of her other classmates broke down in tears, saying: “She was such a sweet girl.”
It is understood the mum of the girl whose birthday it was checked whether all her daughter’s friends could swim before inviting them to Liquid Leisure.
The waterpark also says it requires everyone to confirm they are strong swimmers before letting them in the water and provides life jackets for inflatables.
But parents have complained about the “death trap” water park where a young girl died a YEAR before her tragic death.
The local council tried to have the park shut down months ago – and parents had voiced their fears of its safety back in 2021.
One mum told how her daughter got stuck head-down in the water between two inflatables during an incident “almost a year to the day” of Saturday’s incident.
Mum-of-two Melissa Henson told MailOnline: “I’m convinced she would have drowned if me and my husband weren’t watching.
“We brought it to management, who apologised and gave us a voucher to come back.”
Another parent, Danny, who visited Liquid Leisure last week, says he had predicted someone was going to end up dying at the park.
The 47-year-old said: “It’s a death trap. I said to myself: ‘Someone is going to get killed here’.
“Lifeguards don’t have basic training and you can’t even hear the safety protocols because the park is on the Heathrow flight path.”
It’s a death trap. I said to myself: ‘Someone is going to get killed here’.
Earlier this year bosses of the aqua park said they were “deeply worried” that it would have to shut due to a planning row with the council.
The park was served with an enforcement notice in December 2020, requiring it to shut the “aqua theme park”.
This decision was set to be subject to a four day inquiry by the planning inspectorate in March this year but this was delayed after the inspector caught Covid.
A local shopkeeper said: “My cousin works at the park. She said they appealed it and there was going to be an inspection.
“Bosses were really worried but it didn’t close because the inspector got Covid and the dates were postponed.
“She said it’s definitely going to get shut down now.”
The victim, named by witnesses as Kyra, was supposed to be on the Total Wipeout-style challenge with around ten friends for an hour-long session at 3pm on Saturday.
But the fun turned into “complete chaos” after the mother of one of the children started screaming her name at around 3.40pm.
Lifeguards sprinted around asking visitors for goggles as they apparently had no diving equipment to search under the inflatables.
‘NO ONE IN CHARGE’
Around 40 adults dived in and began frantically searching for the child.
A 32-year-old mum, who was amongst the visitors that day, said: “There didn’t seem to be a single adult in charge.
“It was horrendous. One of the lifeguards said he didn’t want to get in because he didn’t want to get his trainers wet. Some were screaming to get goggles.”
Kyra was found two hours later and taken to Wexham Park Hospital – but could not be saved.
Another witness, who was at the park with her kids, told Sky News the little girl was seen going under the water and “didn’t come back up”.
The mum, who did not wish to be named, said: “At that point, the lifeguards came running.
“She was with a group of friends for a girl’s birthday.
“My daughter spoke to the birthday group.”
‘IT WAS HORRENDOUS’
Park-goers have told how they were asked to call the girl’s name on the beach, in case she had got out of the water.
Two helicopters circled above as police and firefighters tried to find the youngster.
Local policing area commander Supt Michael Greenwood said: “My thoughts are with the family and friends of the girl who has died as a result of this tragic incident.
“We are in the early stages of investigating this incident to understand the full circumstances
“There was a swift response from all emergency services and following an extensive search of the lake, the girl, who was 11, was located at around 5.10pm and taken to hospital but sadly died.”
‘TRAUMATIC AND UPSETTING’
He added: “This has been an extremely traumatic and upsetting incident for all involved.
“I am aware that several members of the public entered the lake shortly after the girl got into difficultly, but were unable to locate her.
“I would like to commend them for their courage and bravery.
“My sincere condolences are with the girl’s family and friends, and I would ask that their privacy is respected at this incredibly traumatic and distressing time for them.”
Activities at Liquid Leisure include a range of water sports, including open water swimming, wakeboarding and boating.
Tearful lifeguards and wellwishers yesterday laid flowers outside the aquapark, which was shut for a Thames Valley Police investigation.
One card from the “Evans family” read: “To a beautiful little girl.
“I hope you know how hard everyone tried to save you. You were just too beautiful for this world.
“You will always be the brightest star in the night sky.”
Police are now investigating Kyra’s death, which is being treated as unexplained.
The attraction said it would be closed on Sunday in a statement posted on Facebook.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and all those effected by this desperately tragic and upsetting incident,” it read.
“As Thames Valley Police are in the early stages of an investigation it would not be right for us to add further comment, but we will continue to fully support and assist them throughout the process.”
Source: The Sun