Community stunned by loch tragedy

TOUCHING tributes to an 18-year-old student, who tragically drowned last week, have been laid at Banton Loch.

Wednesday, 25th August 2010, 7:06 pm

Named locally as John Hixon, the teenager was swimming in the man-made loch, near Kilsyth, with four friends, when he drowned on Thursday, August 19.

The popular Strathclyde University student was attempting to swim the 150 yards from the bank of the loch to Spiers Island in the middle, when he was caught by a current.

The alarm was raised around 3.40pm and emergency services, including a specialist Fire and Rescue boat crew and Royal Navy Sea King helicopter, attended the scene.

John's body was recovered from the water just after 7.30pm by divers from Strathclyde Police's underwater search unit.

The former Denny High pupil, who lived in Banknock, near Bonnybridge, with his parents and younger brother Andrew, was due to begin his second year at the Glasgow University next month.

Amongst the tributes left at the bank of the loch are messages, photographs and flowers from family and friends.

Personal items, such as Celtic and Falkirk Football Club strips, white plimsoll trainers and friendship beads have also been left in memory of John.

One message from a friend said: "The finest example of a young man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, a true gentleman."

While another wrote, "John, you're such a genuine guy – always making people laugh. You'll be greatly missed by everyone who knew you."

The deep loch, also known as the Townhead Reservoir, is popular with local fishing clubs and is often used by walkers. Owned by British Waterways Scotland, the reservoir feeds the Forth and Clyde Canal and is known for its strong currents and undertow.

Wendy Hoyle, chairperson of the Banton Community Council, said the local community was shocked by the accident.

She said: "He had family in Banton and they have been down to the loch to lay flowers. It is such a tragedy to happen to a promising young man and is such a senseless loss of life."

Kilsyth councillor Jean Jones, also paid her condolences.

She said: "It's a tragedy that someone has lost their life in these circumstances.

"It's been a number of years since there has been an incident on the loch, but everyone in Kilsyth can probably remember one incident down there over the years. It's a dangerous area of water."

Those living near the loch were also shocked and saddened by the news.

A neighbour, whose house over looks the loch, said: "I have seen young lads trying to swim over to Spiers Island before.

"There's always one whose not as strong a swimmer, but usually they turn back before they get into danger."