When a family gathers on a Somerset beach today to scatter petals in the sea water, they will be remembering a little girl whose legacy still lives on in the county.
Lelaina Hall was just five when she became trapped in the mudflats at Brean a decade ago today and her death inspired Western Daily Press readers who bought a hovercraft in her memory – which is run by the charity BARB.
The charity, itself marking its 20th anniversary, which operates the Spirit of Lelaina, is throwing open its doors today.
Lelaina’s mother Caroline, who has two children, Elizabeth and James, said she always find the month of June a difficult one.
She visits Burnham-on-Sea every year on the anniversary, sometimes more frequently, and says: “I always find it comforting. She feels more alive there because of the hovercraft. When I go there that’s what people talk to me about and it’s my time for Lelaina.
“She will always be in my mind and it’s nice for me that other people remember her. Whenever we come we go to Burnham and then to where it happened and take petals or flowers.
“The tide does vary so sometimes it looks very different to how it did when it happened.
“I cannot imagine what she would look like at 15, she will always be five for me. She is still part of our every day family life but what happened can hit hard when you are not expecting it. Something will remind you – it’s harder when you are not prepared.”
Visitors today will be able to see the new hovercraft also paid for by Daily Press readers which arrived in April and the Spirit of Lelaina’s sister craft The Light of Elizabeth.
Mark Newman, chairman of BARB, said: “Our open day takes place from 11am to 3pm and our hovercrafts will be on show.
“People will be able to meet the crew and pick up safety advice and information.
“Having these hovercrafts mean we can reach incidents far faster and, in conjunction, with the coastguard save lives.
“Caroline and her family comes every year and it is always a very emotional day but always a very positive one because something so wonderful has come from such a tragedy in the form of our hovercrafts and Lelaina’s name lives on and her legacy continues.”
June 2002: Five-year-old Lelaina Hall dies after getting stuck on the dangerous mudflats at Berrow Sands
July 2002: Western Daily Press campaign launched to raise money for new hovercraft
July 2002: Appeal target met, a total exceeding £35,000 sent in by Western Daily Press readers
October 2002: Work begins on the new Spirit of Lelaina hovercraft, at a factory in Sweden
November 2002: Coroner Michael Rose writes to Sedgemoor Council recommending they erect warning signs on the seafront where Lelaina died
March 2003: Spirit of Lelaina hovercraft officially launched in a ceremony at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset
May 2003: The new state-of-the art boat attends its first rescue at Brean beach
August 2006: The Light of Elizabeth is launched thanks to an extra £15,000 raised by Western Daily Press readers
October 2009: Western Daily Press launches another successful campaign, this time raising £30,000 to replace the Light of Elizabeth