Call to drain canal after boy, 4, dies

THE parents of a boy who died after falling into the icy waters of a disused canal near his home spoke yesterday of their love for the "most wonderful son" they could have wished for.

Connor Gibb, four, died in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary late on Wednesday night after he slipped and plunged into the partially frozen canal at Port Elphinstone, on the outskirts of Inverurie, while playing with his friend, Daniel Whyte, five.

Daniel tried to save his friend before running home to raise the alarm. His father, Colin, 37, managed to pull Connor from the icy waters, but the boy later died in hospital.

Connor’s parents, Gordon Duncan and Marie Gibb, issued their tribute to their son as calls intensified among residents for action to be taken to prevent another tragedy on the canal, which is now used as a mill lade for the International Paper mills at Inverurie.

The couple said: "We are totally devastated by the death of our dear little boy who has been snatched away from us so tragically and unexpectedly.

"Connor was the most wonderful son and brother that a family could wish for, and his loss is felt very deeply.

"We are very grateful to Daniel’s father for rescuing Connor from the canal and we will never forget his strenuous efforts to revive him."

The couple, who also have a daughter, Kaysha, also praised the efforts of medical and emergency crews who tried to save their son, and concluded: "Connor and Daniel were inseparable and we hope that Daniel will be able to come to terms with the loss of his close friend."

The canal, opened in 1805, once formed part of a waterway linking Aberdeen to Inverurie, but has been disused for more than 150 years after a railway line was built to link the two centres. There is a network of paths on the banks of the canal, which is popular with people walking their dogs, but there is no fence to prevent the public reaching them.

Mr Whyte, whose son was recovering from his ordeal at the family home in Port Elphinstone last night, yesterday led the community in calls for action to be taken to prevent another tragedy at the canal.

He said: "I want something done. It is a big issue. I know it is a historical site and is nice to look at but if it could be drained and turned into a bird sanctuary or a nature reserve, it would be good.

"The developers seem to throw up the houses willy-nilly and then forget what they leave behind. Kids are kids and they will go down there, although the boys had been warned often enough. There have been other incidents in the past."

He added: "It is always the same, the voice of the people is never heard until there is a fatality."

David Steele, the managing director of the International Paper mills, said: "Our first thoughts and our sympathies are obviously with the family.

"We have been in contact with the police to understand a little bit more about what has happened and to offer any assistance that we can give.

"Beyond that, there isn’t really much that we can say."

Asked if the company would be reviewing its safety procedures or had considered fencing off the canal in the past, Mr Steele replied: "We have offered to assist the police in any inquiries they have to make and we are trying to understand what happened."

Raymond Bisset, the local councillor and convener of Aberdeenshire Council, said the local authority could not take any direct action as it did not own the land, but it would be prepared to offer advice to the owners of the land and the local community.

He said: "It is a dreadful tragedy. There is nothing that will bring back the wee boy’s life. My heart goes out to his parents."

A report on the accident is to be submitted to the procurator fiscal and it is almost certain there will be fatal accident inquiry.