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Friends pay tribute to Eastleigh Lakeside Country Park tragedy victim Austin Clark
TRIBUTES have been paid to a man who drowned in freezing cold water at a lake.
The 28-year-old, named last night as Austin Clark, was dragged from the water at Lakeside Country Park in Eastleigh after getting into serious trouble 20 metres out.
The Daily Echo understands that the former Sparsholt College student was visiting the beauty spot with friends and took a decision to go swimming in the lake when he disappeared from sight after getting into difficulty.
Brave police officers plunged into the water in a desperate rescue bid, shortly after noon on Monday, after receiving a 999 call.
The incident quickly escalated to an all-services emergency, with 13 police cars, multiple fire appliances and at least five ambulance and paramedic vehicles arriving.
Two hours later, and after a mammoth search operation, rescuers found a body in one of the park’s three lakes. Although desperate attempts were made to save his life, Mr Clark was pronounced dead at hospital.
Yesterday, there was no evidence at the park of the high drama that had unfolded just 24 hours earlier.
But friends have been taking to the Internet to pay their respects.
A tribute page was set up on Facebook, where pals were invited to leave their own messages of condolence.
Nearly 50 had joined the group by last night.
One friend, Ryan Imber, wrote: “RIP Austin you’ll be missed by everyone.”
Others spoke of their shock at the news as they struggled to understand what had unfolded.
Hannah Goddard said: “Such a tragedy, can’t believe what’s happened. I’ve not seen him since college but my thoughts are with everyone who is missing him x.”
Andy Smith, who knew Austin when he was at Sparsholt College in 2001 to 2002, described him as having a good sense of humour.
He said Austin had studied for a first diploma in animal care at the college.
“He was a funny guy, very laidback.
He was quite popular as well,” Andy said.
Another friend used the comments section of the Daily Echo website to say: “RIP Austin. You definitely put up one hell of a fight. Sleep tight mate.”
A National Police Air Service helicopter was called in as the search operation escalated on Monday. An incident tent was set up just yards from the water’s edge while support vehicles from all emergency services were on standby.
Dog walkers and fishermen who regularly use the lakes watched on as rescuers scoured the water for two hours before the grim discovery was made.
Police say that the incident is not being treated as suspicious but are appealing for any witnesses to contact them on 101.
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