Sarah Lea (pictured) has paid tribute to Prince William after the Duke tried to save her son Robbie who died last year
The mother of a teenager who drowned in a river while swimming with friends has paid tribute to Prince William for trying to save him in an air ambulance.
Robbie Lea was found under almost 15ft of water in Lee Valley Park in Hertfordshire, after he had gone swimming with school friends in May last year.
The Duke of Cambridge piloted an air ambulance to the scene as emergency services desperately searched for the 16-year-old boy.
His mother Sarah Lea, 33, praised Prince William for his ‘bravery’ and for opening up about the ‘trauma’ of dealing with medical emergencies.
Speaking to the Mirror, Mrs Lea said: ‘I can’t thank Prince William enough. For what he did to try to save my son on that terrible day and for now speaking out on mental health issues.
‘I’ve struggled to get the right support for Mason. But I certainly haven’t been let down by Prince William.’
‘It shows our future king is human. It was a brave thing to do.’
Mrs Lea said she was still in bereavement counselling and felt ‘let down by the system’ in the aftermath of her son’s death.
Rescuers found Robbie an hour after the search began, close to where he was last seen struggling in the water. He was pronounced dead at the scene in Hertfordshire.
Mrs Lea said Robbie had swimming lessons when he was younger, but that he ‘was not a strong swimmer’.
Robbie had been out with friends Kieran Cook and Jayden Baldwin, and the friends went to the River Lea on May 25 last year where the teenager drowned, an inquest heard.
His mother said she still spoke to Kieran and Jayden, saying they were ‘good boys’ and that she bore ‘no ill will towards them’.
Prince William is pictured at the scene (left) where he piloted an ambulance in a desperate bid to save teenager Robbie Lea (right) who drowned while swimming with friends last year
She added: ‘It’s comforting to know he was with his best friends having fun on a sunny day.’
Prince William said this week he was lucky to have worked for the RAF and the East Anglian Air Ambulance, because of their good mental health working practices.
Speaking about his time with the air ambulance, he said: ‘Talking was really important, but even that wasn’t quite enough for one particular incident for me.
‘I worked several times on very traumatic jobs involving children, and after I had my own children I think the relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge, and I started feeling things that I have never felt before, and I got very sad and very down about this particular family.’
Talking to colleagues helped him to ‘come to terms with the enormous sadness’ of what had happened, he added.
While taking part in a panel discussion, William added: ‘We spend a vast amount of our time at work.
‘There should be a much more open, supportive and compassionate working environment to deal with those sorts of problems.
The Duke of Cambridge piloted this air ambulance to the scene where Robbie was pronounced dead after an hour-long search for his body
The Duke of Cambridge has opened up about his experiences of feeling ‘very sad and very down’ during his time serving in the Air Ambulance
Robbie Lea was found under almost 15ft of water in Lee Valley Park (pictured) in Hertfordshire, after he had gone swimming with school friends in May last year
‘There’s still a stigma about mental health. We are chipping away at it but that wall needs to be smashed down.’
William campaigns alongside the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex for mental health initiative Heads Together.
In October, His Royal Highness launched ‘Mental Health at Work’, the latest initiative from Heads Together and the mental health charity Mind, which provides free resources to companies wanting more help to support their employees’ wellbeing.
At Robbie’s inquest senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said his first conclusion was ‘simply one of an accident’.
‘I’m satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Robbie died as a result of a tragic accident,’ he said.
A post-mortem conducted by consultant pathologist Dr Anju Agarwal found that Robbie’s lungs ‘were filled with lots of fluid’, but that there were no signs of external injury.
Dr Agarwal said the lungs were ‘all puffed up’, which often signifies submersion. She confirmed the conclusion of the examination was ‘death by drowning’.
Mr Sullivan recorded the medical cause of death as ‘drowning’.
Lee Valley Regional Park is a 10,000-acre 26 miles long linear park which runs through the northeast of Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire.
The duke was speaking at the inaugural This Can Happen conference at The O2 in London on Tuesday, which aims to address mental health issues in the workplace
William served in East Anglian Air Ambulance for two years until July 2017 and said that some of the ‘traumatic’ jobs involving child, one of which ‘took him over the edge’