A MUM, whose 16-year-old son died whilst wild swimming with friends, says she hopes others will learn from his tragedy.
An inquest on July 18 in Bolton this year ruled Kalen Waugh died from drowning.
A year on from his death, his mum Vicky has revealed she still cannot enter his bedroom and has pleaded for other children to stay away from water as wild swimming becomes increasingly popular.
Kalen drowned after getting into difficulty in Salford Quays in July 2022.
Vicky had to wait overnight until his body was recovered and his death was confirmed.
A few weeks later, she collected Kalen’s GCSE’s, which had secured him his dream place at college to study construction.
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Vicky, 33, says: “Kalen was my only son, I was a single mum and so we were inseparable. We did everything together.
“My recurring worry was how he’d cope if anything ever happened to me. Not for a moment did I think he would die first.
“He wasn’t even planning to swim that day, but he was a strong swimmer and a fit young lad.
“If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.
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“There were reports of him going under the surface, but his body was not recovered until early the following morning. I spent the night convincing myself it wasn’t true, and hoping he would just walk through the door.
“It was torture. Even now, a year on, my life is a blur. I miss him so much and I have not been able to enter his bedroom. It is just as he left it.
“I just hope Kalen’s legacy can be to educate other youngsters against the dangers of open-water swimming.”
Vicky was just 15 when she fell pregnant with Kalen, and was supported by her mum, Dawn, and Nanna, Sandra.
She says: “Kalen was a real live wire; he was always on the go, always full of energy.
“He had a really good heart too. He took my Nanna to see Mamma Mia at the cinema, even though it was his idea of hell, just to make her happy.”
In 2018, Dawn died suddenly aged 48 and in 2020, Sandra died from cancer.
Vicky says: “Their deaths hit us both hard, but if anything, we were even closer through our grief. I was proud of the way Kalen coped.
“After leaving school, he was hoping to go to college, to study construction, and we were waiting for his GCSE results.
“He was enjoying the summer, he loved our two dogs, Jasmine and Lola, and he went to the gym every day. He was a strong swimmer too.”
At around 2pm on July 16, Kalen left the house to meet with his friends.
Vicky says: “He didn’t have swimming stuff and he didn’t mention any plans to swim. I think it was most probably a spontaneous decision.
“I gave him some money and I caught him sneaking out with my new water flask, so we had the usual banter over that. It was just a normal afternoon.”
Vicky was dyeing her hair when, at 6pm, she got a message to say Kalen was in trouble in the water in Salford Quays.
She says: “I thought there was a mistake.
“I rushed down there, and it was busy, and I was sure it was all a misunderstanding. But then I got round the corner, and I saw police and ambulances.
“I was told he’d gone under the water. I was frantic, screaming for him.
“A police officer took me home and I was told that a specialist team was needed to recover his body.
“I stared at my phone all night, and I convinced myself it wasn’t true. If there was no body, perhaps he’d got out? I kept lying to myself.”
At 6:30am, Kalen’s body was recovered, and Vicky was taken to make the formal identification. He was later buried, along with Dawn and Sandra’s ashes.
Vicky says: “Every day without him is so hard.
“It is some comfort to me that he is with my mum and grandmother, and they will be looking after him.
“After his death, I found out he’d passed his GCSEs and he had his place at college. It is such a tragic waste of a young life.
“I only hope his death will make other kids realise just how dangerous it is to swim in open water.”
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An inquest into Kalen’s death, held on July 18 2023 at Bolton Coroner’s Court, ruled he had drowned.
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