Tributes paid to teenager who drowned while swimming with friends in the River Great Ouse in Huntingdon

Rony, second from right, was part of a cup win with Huntingdon and District Cricket Club.

Rony, second from right, was part of a cup win with Huntingdon and District Cricket Club. - Credit: Archant

A 15-year-old boy drowned while playing with friends in the River Great Ouse in Huntingdon on the first day of the summer holiday.

Rony John, of Tomlinson Court, Huntingdon, was jumping into the river at Church Lane, Hartford, at about 3.40pm on Thursday when he came into difficulty and disappeared under water.

Despite his friends doing all they could to help him, they couldn’t find him and a major river search was launched.

Water search specialists from Spartan Rescue, which is based in Little Gidding, helped Cambridgeshire police search for Rony. He was found in the river shortly after 2am the following day.

Today (Wednesday), a wake is being held at St Michael’s Church, in Hartford Road, from 1pm-3pm. He will then be flown home to India for his funeral, which is hoped to take place later this week.

Rony leaves behind his father John Thomas, 50, a healthcare worker at Primrose Hill Care Home, mother Lizy John, 48, a care worker in Bangor, Wales, and brother Roshan John, 10.

His cousin Carol Thomas, 22, of St Mary’s Terrace, Papworth, who spoke on behalf of his family, told The Hunts Post: “He said he was going to the library but he must have met some friends on the way.

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“It was the first time he had been to the river. We’re not sure as we haven’t spoken to his friends who were there but they jumped in twice and got out fine but it was the third time when they all jumped in together, that’s when he went.

“We are all shocked by this. I was in Coventry at the time when I got told to call home as something had happened. I spoke to my brother and he said that someone had drowned but he didn’t know who because his mum ran out of the door.

“I found out later it was Rony and I burst into tears.”

Miss Thomas added: “People from the Huntingdon Alliance for Indians, who had been there many times before, told us the river wasn’t deep enough to drown. We were still hopeful up to 2am that he would be alright.

“It’s devastating that he died on the first day of the summer holidays, he had so many plans. It’s absolutely devastating that he didn’t get to enjoy more of his life.

“He had been living here for two years but as a family, we have never done the tourism sites in London, so we were all going to London together.”

She said Rony and his brother moved to Huntingdon from Kerala, India, in 2012 for a better education. “He was into his sports, particularly cricket. He was really shy and quiet but among friends he was really talkative. He would obey always and never talk back to anyone.

“Rony loved cricket and wanted to continue to play when he was older but unfortunately he never got that opportunity.

“The church was important to Rony. He was a Marthomait Christian and he went to the church’s youth conference in South Wales at the end of June. He took part in every activity and told a testimony.

“He met lots of people and the people who ran it have been in touch with us. In his diary he said that he felt that he felt closer to God afterwards.

“We are happy in the way he came back from the conference a better person.”

Miss Thomas said: “We went down to the river yesterday (Monday) and we have been amazed by the number of flowers left there and the signed school shirt. It shows he has had an impact on the school in only a short period of time.

“Rony was known by everyone. He was part of the church in Huntingdon and here in Papworth where we live, as well as the Huntingdon Alliance for Indians and we have one in Papworth also.

“His dad is a magician and Rony would travel with him for shows to help out with music and the lighting.

“A lot of people knew him and the number of calls we have had from Dubai, Saudi Arabia [where Rony was born] and India has been amazing.

“We have also had prayers with people everyday, sometimes twice.

“We went back to the house and everything in his bedroom was left the way he left it. It was quite hard going back in there for us.

“We want to set up a charity to help children like Rony to come here for a better education and raise awareness of the dangers of the river but the most important thing for us now is to get him back to India where his grandparents, who are very important to us, and the rest of the family can spend a bit more time with Rony.”

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