Impact of teenagers’ deaths in Thorpe St Andrew still felt by community one year on
- Credit: Archant
It has been a year since two teenagers drowned while swimming in an old gravel pit on the edge of Norwich.
But the impact of their deaths exactly 12 months ago is still felt by their families and Norfolk's close-knit Congolese community.
Cousins Stella Kambi, 17, and Bonheur Musungay, 14, died after getting into trouble at Thorpe Marshes Reserve, in Thorpe St Andrew.
It is understood that Stella had dived in to try to save her younger cousin after he began choking on water.
Their bodies were recovered from the water some hours later following a large-scale search operation on the evening of August 12, 2015.
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A year later, the pair are still very much missed by those who knew them, including Elvis Beya, president of the Norfolk Congolese Association.
The 27-year-old said: 'The Congolese community is a very close family and we look after each other. If one is affected we are all affected.
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'The deaths have had an impact on our community, especially in terms of the freedom the children have now.
'Before they would be trusted to go out with friends on their own, but the parents are now more sensitive about that and are not as relaxed.'
Mr Beya said Stella's family had moved from their home in Thorpe St Andrew as they 'could not cope' living in the same house.
Meanwhile, Bonheur's mother recently moved to Nottingham for the same reason.
He added: 'They are just devastated because the conclusion from the coroner has not yet been made.'
A full inquest is due to take place on October 10 at Norfolk Coroner's Court.
Stella – a former Thorpe St Andrew School student – was studying childcare at City College Norwich when she died.
She had hoped to eventually study at university to become a midwife.
Bonheur, meanwhile, who lived at The Lathes, was described as a 'bright' student who was due to start year 10 at Sewell Park College. As well as playing rugby, he was a member of Norwich United Karate,
Following their deaths, public access to the submerged gravel pit was blocked off by Norfolk Wildlife trust.
A five metre section of fencing was put in place in June this year, to prevent people from swimming at the pit during the warmer weather.
Kevin Hart, head of nature reserves at the trust, said the site had been a popular location for young people during the summer.
'Previously we had signage up, which was periodically vandalised,' he said. 'But even with the signage, it was still not stopping people.
'It made it clear to us that we needed to do something to ensure an incident like that did not happen again.'
He added: 'It is very unfortunate and there were a lot of people who wanted to retain that access, but it is for the safety of visitors.'
There was an outpouring of public support for the families of the teenagers following their deaths.
A local solictor helped raise around £1,000, while others donated money to help with funeral costs.
Thorpe St Andrew Town Council has since supplied a wooden bench in memory of the pair, which will be installed in the coming weeks.
Are you paying tribute today? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684