A teenager died in a reservoir after his friends thought he was playing a prank by pretending to drown, an inquest has heard.

Paul Lawson, 16, had been swimming with other boys in Greenbooth Reservoir, Rochdale, on the hottest day of the year this summer when he got into difficulty, Manchester Evening News reports.

The aspiring footballer's body was recovered by police divers just metres from water's edge.

An inquest into his death heard how the Hopwood Hall College student had gone to the reservoir on 19 June with a group of friends.

They had been jumping from a rocky outcrop into the water and decided to try to swim the 50 metres to the opposite bank.

In a statement read out to Rochdale Coroner's Court, a friend told of how he tried to save Paul's life after the teen began to get into difficulty.

"I was feeling a bit tired," the friend said. "I swam slowly so I would make it across.

"I saw Paul was in the water so I got back in to help him. I saw two other boys were also struggling. I noticed Paul was in trouble. He wasn't quite halfway across.

"He didn't seem to be moving. He looked a bit blue. His head kept going under the water.

"Three or four people were around him but I could see they were all tired. People were stood around, I asked for help but I think they thought it was a prank.

"I grabbed hold of Paul and got him about three or four metres from the edge. I tried so hard to keep hold of him. I was screaming for help, but I had to get out because I was just so tired."

A teenage girl also at the reservoir, who did not know Paul, told of how she also jumped in the water to try and rescue him.

She said: "As I got to him he grabbed my arm. He was pulling me under.

"I grabbed him and held him to my body. I shouted at him to lay on his back, but he didn't seem to hear me. I managed to bring him closer to the edge but I had to let go because I had swallowed some water and I started to panic.

"I couldn't feel my legs because I had used all my energy."

The rescue attempts failed and police divers recovered his body a few metres from the reservoir's edge.

Paul's mother, Natalie Lawson, of Wardle, Rochdale, said she owed the friends a "massive thank you" for trying to save her son's life.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, coroner Michael Salt warned against swimming in open water.

He said: "The message has to be 'don't do it'. Don't go in reservoirs, ponds, mill lodges, canals. They are dangerous.

"There were many people there that day. Many people, some as young as 13 or 14, had entered the water throughout the afternoon and evening. But the fact there were so many people there did not make it any safer. As a result Paul Lawson drowned in the most tragic circumstances at such a young age."

A toxicology report found no alcohol or drugs in his system. The cause of death was given as drowning.

Why can swimming in reservoirs be dangerous?

  • Reservoirs seldom have lifeguards to help if you get into trouble.
  • Reservoirs are working sites with machinery hidden under the water. Pumps can be turned on at any moment, creating strong currents which can drag swimmers under.
  • The water is often cold and those not used to low-temperature swimming may go into shock, causing uncontrolled breathing, high heart rate and increased blood pressure. Even experienced cold-water swimmers have died in reservoirs.
  • Plants under the surface have also been known to trap swimmers.