Heartbroken sister of boy, 13, who drowned pays tribute to ‘smiley, happy, little man’

A devastated sister has shared an urgent warning to take care in the hot weather after her 13-year-old brother drowned.

Robert Hattersley told his sister Emma Hattersley that he was going for a dip with friends at the River Tyne during the scorching July heatwave.

But he got into difficulty while swimming as he was pulled in by strong currents and his friends were unable to save him.

Emma, 24, told Chronicle Live : “I asked him where he was off and he said he was going down to the river with his friends.

“I told him to be safe and to ring me when he was home. He said ‘I will, I love you’ and I said I loved him back.

“That’s the last conversation I had of him which I will treasure forever.”

Robert’s family waited for six hours while emergency services searched the water for the teen.

The teen had headed down to the water in the days before the hottest day ever on record, when the mercury reaching as high as 41C in parts of the country.

Police later visited parents Stella, 47, and Carl, 48, at their home in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, to tell them the devastating news that their son had drowned.

The family are now warning others about the risks around water and the importance of being safe ahead of the August scorcher.

Paying tribute to her little brother, Emma said: “He was the best little brother me and my sisters could’ve asked for.

“He was always a smiley, happy, little man. He was the kindest person anyone could ever meet.

“One of his friends contacted my sister Chantelle about the incident so she rang me while I was on Facetime with my mum.

“My mum instantly started crying, she knew something bad had happened.

“His friend told Chantelle that his cousin rang him, saying Robert got pulled in by the current. They tried to save him but they couldn’t.”

Emma said another mum called the emergency services while a man at the scene tried to save Robert but he was not able to bring him to safety.

Searches were carried out by Northumbria Police, Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service, Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service, HM Coastguard and Mountain Rescue.

The teen’s body was later found in the water and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Emma said: “I posted all over social media to see if we could get him home. No matter how much I tried I still felt useless. The wait to hear about him felt so long.

“We were all on Facetime together when the police went to my mam’s (home) to tell her, then all I heard was her scream while crying.

“As soon as we heard they’d found a body and it was believed to be Robert, I broke down. I couldn’t think of anything except those words.”

Robert’s family have urged people to stop and think, spot the dangers, stay together and float in an emergency and call 999.

They held a memorial on August 2 to celebrate what would have been his 14th birthday and gathered at the spot near to where he lost his life where a handful of balloons were released.

Flowers and a piece of cake were also placed into the river in honour of his birthday.

Robert lived in Crawcrook with his parents and had four older sisters including Emma, Charlotte, 20, Chantelle, 19, and Victoria, 16.

“We all used to drive each other crazy,” Emma said.

“I used to dress him up as a little girl with little pigtails in his hair and put my little sister’s dress on him.

“He loved being the only boy as he knew we always had his back. We are all close siblings.

“When I think of Robbie, what stands out the most is when we used to wind each other up all the time and his cheeky chappy smile.”

Emma, who has four children, said that Robert would play fight with her brood and spend hours playing football with her youngest daughter.

“Robbie was a great uncle, my children adored the life out of him. Every time he visited the kids would be excited and they would jump all over him,” she said.

The mum of four said her brother had lots of friends and would enjoy going out and playing football in his spare time.