A mother who saved the life of her young son by staying with him in the flooded house where she was born has died.
Mandy Waddell-Smith, 81, had been staying with her son, Richard, in a caravan on the outskirts of Walsall, in Somerset, when the family arrived in the town in the early hours of Monday morning.
A flood had forced the family to move to a house in a village close to the River Thames.
But it was the arrival of the storm surge that made her life change forever.
“My son had just been born,” she said.
“It was just a few hours before we got the call from the hospital.
I went into the living room and said ‘my son is safe’ and they said ‘good job, thank you’.”
After Richard was born, his mother and sister went to help him, then returned to the house to find it flooded again.
She was the first to return, she said, to check on the baby who was still in his cradle.
“We were standing there, holding our son and I thought, ‘this is it, this is the moment’.”
I just stood there and thought, if we’re going to stay in Walsaletown I’m going to need to be ready.
“Mandy had no children herself and said she wanted to have a baby.
Richard, now aged nine, was born at the same hospital.
But when she went back to check it out she found her son had died.”
I was devastated, absolutely devastated.
I just could not believe it,” she recalled.”
Richard was the last thing I thought I was going to see, not even a glance.
“But my son was there and he was fine, he was breathing, and then he died.”‘
He had no one to look after him’Despite her grief, Mandy said she did not consider herself a mother.
“That was not me.
I didn’t want to be a mother, I didn.
I was a single mum.
I knew that it was something that had to be done.”
Moryna Smith, a local doctor, described Mandy as a “strong woman” who was always ready to help others.
“She was not a single parent and she was not living with a husband, she was living with her mother,” she told the BBC.
“Her son was fine but she couldn’t see him.
That’s a big loss.”
Richard died in March after a heart attack and was buried in the family graveyard.
“The mother of my son had been very worried about her son.
It’s very sad that she’s not here now,” said Moryna.”
All of us were just very shocked.
Mandy was a very strong woman.
She was always up for anything and would help anyone.”
Richard’s parents and sister had not spoken publicly since the death of their son, and a post on Mandy’s Facebook page showed them with the words “lost a great friend” written in her handwriting.
Richard’s family said the family had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and they hoped his death would bring comfort.
“He had very strong and strong people around him, very supportive and loving and very, very, good-hearted,” Mandy told BBC Radio Bristol.
“To have someone who had never met them say that and to know that they were doing it to him, it is a real comfort to us.”
What we want to do is get this story out there, and the wider community, and let everyone know that we are so very sorry.
“There was a great outpouring and so many people have spoken and it is still very overwhelming.”