The parents of a five-year-old boy from Ballymena who died after falling into the Braid river have spoken about the last moments they saw their son alive.
Kayden Fleck fell into the river near the Ecos Centre in Ballymena on Saturday, February 10 while he was playing with his twin brother, Jayden.
He was recovered from the water around two hours later after being swept downstream to the Tullygarley Bridge but, sadly, he passed away.
The boy’s parents, Leanne and Darrel Fleck, described the “nightmare” they have endured since little Kayden’s death in an interview with the BBC.
The couple are hoping anyone who saw the twin boys near the river on February 10 to contact the PSNI, who are trying to piece together Kayden’s last movements.
The couple say they were in the process of moving house and had returned to their old home in Ballykeel to collect some final belongings when they seen the boys together for the last time.
“The boys asked if they could go outside to the back yard and I said, ‘Yes, but please don’t go away’,” Mrs Fleck told the BBC.
“We didn’t think that was going to be the last time that we were going to see the two boys as the two musketeers.”
Darrel Fleck told interviewer Sara Girvin he had been working to dismantle a shed in the back garden where the boys were playing.
“I set the drill down and the boys were gone,” he said. “I turned my back and they were away within seconds. Within minutes we were out to look for them.”
He added: “We never thought to look near the river first because they’ve never been there alone in their lives.”
They first looked for the boys in a nearby playpark.
Leanne Fleck said: “We went straight to the play park but they weren’t there. We started searching, wondering where abouts they could be but it was when Jayden then cried for help over at the Ecos Centre - that’s whenever we knew something terrible had happened.”
Mr Fleck said he first spotted Jayden running from the river, around half a mile from the family’s former home, with his clothes soaked. He later told his parents he had tried to help his brother out of the water, but couldn’t reach him.
Mrs Fleck said he has been “lost” ever since: “Jayden has just told us that Kayden wanted to see the ducks.
“He’s saying they were playing and then Kayden wanted to go home but that he wanted to take a path that he thought would take him home more quickly. We can’t understand how they got so far.”
She added: “Other than that he’s been very quiet, he’s playing but he’s just lost.”
She described little Kayden, who was born with a congenital heart defect and chronic lung disease and had spent the first year of his life in hospital, as “our little fighter”.
She added: “He was special in every way, not only because he was unwell as a baby but because of his personality. I’ll always remember Kayden as my wee sunshine.
“That was how he made us feel, he was just a ray of sunshine.”
Father Darrel added: “”It’s been a nightmare, it’s been terrible.
“We just feel so empty and so lost. He was the life and soul of the house. He was fun, he was bubbly, when things got bad he made them right.
“He was there to give you a hug and wipe away the pain, but the pain is never going to go away.
“My 14-year-old son doesn’t know what to say to me and our daughter, who’s four, keeps asking when Kayden is coming back. We’ve told her the angels had to take him.”
The couple were married just three weeks ago.
Mrs Fleck said: “It was the best day of our lives, we were finally going to be the family we’d always wanted to be. It was magical.”
The couple are now appealing for greater safety measures to be put in place around rivers close to built up residential areas.
“I don’t want another family to go through this,” Leanne Fleck said.
“In this estate and other housing estates where there could be rivers, children go out to play and I don’t want another child to be Kayden.”
The newly married couple are appealing for anyone who saw the two boys to contact the PSNI, who are investigating little Kayden’s last movements.
“We need answers,” Leanne Fleck said.
“We cannot put the pieces of this puzzle together.
“I just want to know if anyone saw them, what were they doing? Were they with anyone? What directions did they take?
“We just need to know what happened, and how it happened.”
Police investigating the sudden death of Kayden Fleck have also issued an appeal for witnesses.
Constable Greenwood said: “Police investigating the sudden death of Kayden are trying to establish his last movements.
“It is believed that Kayden and his brother were in the vicinity of the River Braid near the Ecos Centre, Ballymena at approximately 12 mid-day – 1.00pm on Saturday, 10 February 2018.
“Were you out walking along the Braid River or did you take part in the park run that morning? Did you see Kayden and his brother playing near the river? Did you witness Kayden go into the water?”
The PSNI constable added: “If you have any information, please phone police in Ballymena on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 613 10/02/18. Any information, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, could help us trace the last movements of Kayden.”