A three-year-old boy miraculously survived after plunging into a castle’s deep moat after mistaking its weed-covered surface for grass.
Quade Ballinger walked into the still, dark water at Nunney Castle, Frome, Somerset on Saturday and was submerged for about three minutes.
His cousin Daniel Britton, 10, raised the alarm after noticing that the little boy was nowhere to be seen.
Quade’s dad Nick Ballinger and his uncle Mark Britton thought he was probably in the water, so they jumped in to save him.
Nick said: “Never have I been so frightened and so ecstatic at the same time.”
He explained the family had a picnic in the sunshine followed by a walk around the castle.
Describing his three-year-old son as “full of mischief and adventure”, Nick said it only took 20 seconds for Quade to disappear from his vision.
He said: “This is where I failed him, and I am not afraid to admit it.
“It sounds so silly but I would just like to raise a little awareness to how quickly a peaceful walk around a 700-year-old castle can quickly turn your life upside down.”
He added: “In the 20 seconds that I had my back to my little boy he had fallen into the moat.
“The moat was covered in a thick green weed which masked any noise and movement.
“If it were not for my young nephew Daniel Britton, 10, who noticed that Quade was nowhere to be seen and raised the alarm Quade would not be alive today.”
Nick said the whole family tried to search for the boy around the castle and soon understood he must be in the water.
He explained: “My incredible brother-in-law Mark Britton did not have time to strip down to his superman suit or empty his pockets.
“He selflessly without hesitation, jumped straight into the weed-covered moat followed closely by me.
“The moat was bloody cold, deep, murky and disgusting. Seconds felt like hours.
“As I began to fear the worst, suddenly I saw Mark holding my son above his head like a trophy.”
When he was rescued, Quade was limp, pale and could not breathe, his dad said.
Nick’s mother Jayne, who is currently still recovering from Covid-19 having spent 6 weeks in hospital at the beginning of the year, then started giving the boy CPR and resuscitated him.
Quade’s dad said: “I owe her everything.”
Emergency services from the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust then attended the incident to assist the boy, who was then taken to hospital.
Nick said he is grateful to every single person in his family who did their best to save Quade – from his mum giving him PCR to his niece Lily Britton who donated her jumper to keep the boy warm.
The 14th-century castle has now been closed by English Heritage which is investigating the incident.
A spokesman for English Heritage which runs Nunney Castle said: “English Heritage is taking this incident very seriously.
“The charity has temporarily closed the castle and is looking at what steps can be taken to prevent something like this happening again.
“Our hearts go out to the young boy and all his family, we have asked his parents to get in touch with us directly so we can hear from them what happened.
“We completely understand their concerns and if they would like us to keep them updated, we are very happy to do so.”
The statement added: “Like the majority of the sites in English Heritage’s care, Nunney Castle is a free-to-enter site which means that there is no staff present on a daily basis.
“A medieval castle, Nunney Castle in Somerset dates from the 1370s.
“Much modernised in the late 16th century, the castle was besieged and damaged by the Parliamentarians in 1645, during the English Civil War.”