Tragedy struck within a few miles of here in Wales at the weekend.
In the Brecon Beacons National Park (Bannau Brycheiniog), to the south of us, four young guys died over the weekend.
The temperature was very hot (high 80sF, 30C). Two your reservist military guys, trekking in full kit with 80lb packs to the summits and across the Beacons, died on Saturday from pushing themselves too hard and dehydration. They were at the start of a week’s trials for getting into an elite service called SAS, and were desperate to prove themselves to be in the top 10%.
Then, on Sunday, two guys died in two separate lakes just one mile apart whilst swimming.
A huge turnout of mountain rescue guys, divers, plus the helicopters and ambulances from the previous incidents. We drove past the sites on Monday in our farm truck, having seen it all on TV – many tributes to all four…
A moving discussion with Leo.
‘Why did they die, dad, if they’re as fit as us?’
‘Leo, they are far fitter than us. We train to do specific things in short periods of time. They train to climb mountains with their huge packs, and have to go on for hours – days…’
‘Then how could they die?’
‘They went beyond their limit, son. You have to know when you have to quit – you can’t always push yourself on and on. Your heart can give up the struggle, along with the rest of the body – especially if you are short on water.’
‘But we went running on our hills for six miles with no trouble…’
‘Yes, but we went early in the morning when the temperature was still low – and Neil and Robbo knew where the streams were where we could get water: they weren’t having to use a map and compass, like the soldiers.’
‘But what about the people in the lakes, dad? We swim in open water all the time.’
‘Maybe they weren’t used to it – the water is still cold and on a very hot day you can go into shock and be unable to move…’
‘So we’re OK because we go in all the time, even in winter?’
‘Leo, we still need to be careful, and watch for any sign of trouble. Watch yourself, and watch each other. Maybe they panicked when they realised they were out of their depth and the water was very deep. Some people can swim, but they panic if they can’t stand up if they have to. And once you get water in your lungs, that’s it…’
Leo very thoughtful for a while.
‘What about their families?’
‘They’re going to be very sad, Leo. And what you have to learn from this is always to be careful. You are a very fit young boy, a great athlete and a good swimmer. But things can always go wrong, especially if you’re just fooling around with your mates. So I need you to learn from this, always look after yourself, and Jaymee, and anyone who is with you. And don’t take risks. Imagine what it would be like for us if something happened to you…’
‘Dad, can I talk to Mum?’
‘Yeah, of course. Turn the computer on…’
Leo, slightly tearful, suddenly throws himself at me.
‘Love you, Dad…’
Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those who died.
It doesn’t seem appropriate to post pictures of gay boys and book adverts this time.