MORE than 200 mourners have descended on the banks of a river to pay tribute to a “fantastic” teen boxer who tragically drowned.
Frank Varey, 16, died yesterday in the River Dee, Cheshire, after heading to the water with his pals – who said they “tried everything to save him.”
More than 200 mourners descended on a riverbank to pay their respects to Frank VareyCredit: Andy Kelvin / Kelvin Media
Frank been heralded by boxing legends after his death
Tributes to Frank were left at the riverCredit: Andy Kelvin / Kelvin Media
A 200-strong crowd gathered at the river today to pay their respects.
Among those on the riverbank close to the spot where he died with a barrage of blue balloons, flowers and gentle music to mark his passing was his boxing coach Brian Moody.
Brian, 45, from the Sharpstyle Boxing Club in Blackpool, paid tribute to the talented youngster, who had been five times national champion ad four times a GB champion in his age group.
Brian said: “Frank was the life and soul and he lit up every room he walked into.
“A truly larger than life character. He was a fantastically talented, but no matter how strong you are sometimes you cannot beat nature. It’s a tragedy and so sad.
“From the crowds here, you can see he touched so many people and was such a lovely lad.
“I have no doubt that he would have been world champion one day, so this is a massive loss for everyone here.”
Among his friends at the vigil was Ellie Foster, 16, in attendance with her mum from York, who fighting back tears, said: “He was one of the nicest people ever. One of my bestest friends and I so loved him.
“I will miss his little Snapchats, so much.”
His eight-year-old cousin, also called Frank Varey, said: “He was my favourite cousin and was going to be the best boxer ever.”
After an hour the group released hundreds of balloons in Frank’s memory and a cheer and clap went up from the mourners gathered to pay their respects.
An Irish traveller called Paddy said: “It looks so peaceful and he’s not the first to drown here, where are the warning signs and the flotation aids to help people in trouble.”
An outraged business owner, who runs an enterprise close to the death scene, said: “This stretch of the river is owned by the Duke Of Westminster – one of the richest men in the country – but there is not a single warning sign, or lifebelt on the river bank.
“You look out at that scene on a sunny day and it looks like a play park – it’s not and another teenager has died.
“What would it cost to out up some warning signs, at least then kids might be able to make a decision to go in the water based on information suggesting it is dangerous. It’s just so tragic and it’s certainly not the first time this has happened round here.”
I have no doubt that he would have been world champion one day
Frank’s coach Brian Moody
Footage posted to social media hours before tragedy struck shows the shirtless lad enjoying the weather with his friends by the river.
Behind the camera, Frank can be heard saying “go on boys!” as his pals take turns jumping into the water.
The lads can be seen diving into the open water one by one, as Frank films from the edge of the riverbank.
In a second clip, the 16-year-old is seen on his way to the river walking side-by-side with a pal – as the temperature indicator on his story shows the mercury hitting 31C.
This morning one of his heartbroken mates, who was at the river with the young boxer, said: “RIP Frank, love you brother.
“Tried everything I could to save you. Heart’s in bits.”
And he warned people against swimming in the water during the heatwave, adding: “Please everyone, stay out of the rivers.”
In a picture of Frank and his brave friend who is said to have jumped in to try and save him, he wrote: “Two minutes before you left me.
“Always like a brother to you know that I will do everything I can to make you proud.
“Love you brother, can’t believe you have left me.”
Frank, originally from Blackpool, is one of the 22 people who have drowned during the heatwave which has scorched the UK over the past five days.
Police were called just after 2pm, and emergency services confirmed that they had found a body at 8pm.
In a statement, Chester Police said: “Police searching for a missing teenage boy in Chester have found a body.
“The 16-year-old was reported missing at around 2.30pm on Thursday 22 July after he disappeared while swimming in the River Dee.
“Extensive searches have been taking place throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Search teams found a body in the river shortly before 8pm.
“Formal identification has not yet taken place but it is believed to be that of the missing boy.
“The teenager’s family have been informed and they are being supported by specially trained officers.”
Tributes poured in for the young lad – including from a number of world-class boxers.
Professional World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury said: “RIP Frank. Was a future world champ.”
And Rhoose Boxing Club, where Frank would train with his dad every summer, said: “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to one of our England boxers, Frank Varey, who sadly passed away this afternoon after he drowned in Cheshire river.”
Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell MBE also paid tribute to the young star: “RIP Frank Varey.
“Rest well champ, thoughts with all your friends and family.”
England’s Boxing Talent coach John Stubbs said: “Frank was a larger than life character.
“No boy should lose their life at 16. This is a sad day for the boxing community and my thoughts are with big Frank and the family.”
The 16-year-old’s aunt said there are “no words” to describe the tragedy, adding: “My beautiful first nephew there are no words.
“Please keep my sister and brother in law and our full family in your prayers the lord knows we need them #TeamVarey. Full life ahead of him.”
Superintendent Myra Ball said: “Sadly this is the second river death that we have seen this week in the county.
“This appears to be another tragic accident and our thoughts are with the boy’s family at this very difficult time.”
The string of tragedies has seen a 13-year-old boy drown in a lake while the woman in her 60s was pulled from a harbour.
And a teenage boy was also pulled from the River Trent in Swarkstone, Derbyshire, around 11.30am after getting into difficulty on Tuesday afternoon.
And later that evening a man drowned at Stanborough Lakes in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, a man in his 20s died after being pulled from the sea, at Crosby Beach, Merseyside.
And in West Yorkshire, 15-year-old Caden Taylor failed to surface after jumping into the Knottingley and Goole Canal with friends.
The wave of deaths comes as temperatures soared to 32C and Brits packed beaches and lakes to cool off.
WAVE OF DEATHS
Authorities have issued several warnings about the dangers of swimming to cool off during high temperatures.
On Saturday, two people drowned while swimming in scorching hot conditions.
A holidaymaker in the sea near Blackpool, Lancs, died after “accidentally getting out of his depth”, and 16-year-old Mohammad Abdul Hamid drowned after entering the River Eden in Rickery Park near Stony Holme, Carlisle.
A further eight deaths were recorded on Sunday – the hottest day of the year.
Lee Heard, RLSS UK’s charity director, said: “Whilst we recognise how tempting it is to cool off in the UK’s beautiful waterways, they hide hazards that tragically take lives each year and we urge the public to use caution when entering the water, getting acclimatised to the water temperature before jumping in.
“The Royal Life Saving Society UK urge everyone to learn vital skills and knowledge to prevent future accidental drownings.
“The difference between the air temperature and water temperature can literally take your breath away; this is called cold water shock. It is silent, invisible and deadly.
“Water can also hide debris, strong currents and sudden changes in depth that can catch out even the strongest swimmers.
“The Royal Life Saving Society UK urge everyone to learn vital skills and knowledge to prevent future accidental drownings.”
Frank’s boxing trainer Brian Moody with Frank’s cousin, also named Frank VareyCredit: Andy Kelvin / Kelvin Media
Future boxing star Frank Varey tragically drowned in the River Dee, Cheshire
Frank posted a clip of himself enjoying time with his mates just moments before tragedy struckCredit: Instagram
Frank won several national titles and represented England in the European ChampionshipCredit: Andy Chubb
In a clip, the boxer records his pals as they jump into the water during the heatwave
Cops at the scene todayCredit: Andy Kelvin / Kelvin Media