Family plea for beauty spot after man’s death from rare illness

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The family of a man who died from a rare illness want to see a local beauty spot cleaned up in his memory.

Ben Smith-Crallan was just 37 when he died in June 2018 after he was placed in an induced coma and had one leg amputated as part of attempts to fight off the effects of Necrotising Fasciitis (NF).

NF typically occurs when bacteria already on the skin or in the body, such as Strep A infections, get into deep tissue and this can happen through cuts and scratches, insect bites and even surgical wounds.

His family believe Ben may have contracted the bug after he cut himself while slipping into the lake at Botanic Gardens in Southport.

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Though the water itself would not cause someone to catch NF, which is fatal in around three out of every 10 instances, the family say it is possible it may have transferred the infection into the deeper tissue, making it more serious.

Over the space of a week the area around the cut had become very painful, swollen and discoloured.

Thinking it was a run-of-the-mill infection, Ben visited A&E for a dose of antibiotics but was immediately taken into surgery, returning to the ICU in an induced coma.

Writing on the GoFundMe page his sister Nina said: "My dad and I turned up with a toothbrush, a book and his phone charger as he'd requested earlier, only to be presented with a devastating scene and no knowledge of what was actually unfolding."

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While Ben's family are clear that they do not blame the state of the water for what happened, they hope they can inspire some positive change at the park.

The lake at the Botanic Gardens in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

Those behind the campaign want to see the lake dredged and restored to its former glory.

The park is owned by Sefton Council and maintained by council staff and dedicated volunteers who took over many duties after the council was forced to scale back services following cuts in funding.

The campaign has been launched by Ben's best friend David Rawsthorne.

David said: “I and Ben’s family love the park, we have a bench in his memory, and his mum’s, placed in there, we don’t hold anyone to blame and accept his death was a tragic accident, but our aim is to see the lake cleaned in his memory.

“Ben was my best friend and I miss him everyday, we spent most of our time together laughing, it would mean the world to me and Nina and Ben's dad, Peter, if we can make this happen.

“I would like to thank the volunteers at Botanic Gardens who work tirelessly keeping the park looking great and have been trying for years to obtain funding, let’s hope with this campaign we can finally get it.”

Sefton Council said that the water in the lake was tested after Ben’s death and confirmed to be of an “acceptable standard for a waterbody that is not designated bathing water”, while Public Health England were satisfied the lake was not the cause of infection.

But the council agrees that improvements would be beneficial and funding may be sought for this.

A spokesperson said: “The lake does attract a lot of wildlife but is not heavily polluted by them. The water is tested regularly and like many other areas, we routinely treat the waterside for vermin.

"Recently, considerable improvements have been made to the waterside aviary, which will also reduce the chance of pests being in the water.

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“The lake, its bridges and waterside would benefit from further improvements and the council has continued to consider options for seeking lottery and other funds for this work.

“We aim to carry out further public consultation on development plans for the park later in 2021.

“We are aware of the formation of the group online and our thoughts very much remain with Mr Smith-Crallan’s family and friends.

"We would welcome an approach from them, and anyone who has a suggestion for improving the park, as we are always open to exploring ideas people have for making the park a better place for everyone.”