A FAMILY have spoken of the terrifying moment their eight-year-old daughter sank into swamp-like mud more than a metre deep.
Aaron Mawson, 32, had been walking his dog on Wednesday in Longcroft Park, Durrington, when his children, Abigail and Kieran Mawson, walked on a different path to meet him further down the route.
But moments later, Aaron heard Abigail screaming and immediately knew something was wrong.
The eight-year-old English Martyrs student, who is a competitive runner, had been jumping on logs when she sank into mud that came above her waste.
Aaron said Abigail managed to escape because she is a strong swimmer, and her shoes, which were stuck in the mud, had been untied and had come off when she struggled free.
Aaron, of Cotswold Road, Durrington, said: “They tried to take a short cut, but it all went wrong. When I heard her screaming I knew she wasn’t messing around.
“She managed to swim out because she’s a strong swimmer, but if it was a younger child they wouldn’t have got out.
“She’s still in shock.”
When Aaron found Abigail his dog immediately jumped into the swamp-like mud in an attempt to rescue her.
But the Alsatian, which is between eight and nine stone, began to sink before struggling to freedom.
Since then, Aaron said it had been shaking from shock.
“When we got him home, he was filthy. He was shaking all night.
“Abigail was so worried about him she got up at night to spend time with him and make sure he was all right.”
Aaron and Abigail’s mother, Nicola Mitchell, said the area where Abigail had sunk into mud was not properly sign-posted or cordoned off, and was both easily accessible and dangerous.
They are now calling on Worthing Borough Council, which is in charge of the land, to put up large warning signs and restrict access to the area.
Nicola, 33, of Ivydore Avenue, said: “My daughter is active and a strong swimmer, which is why she got out. But if it was my younger daughter or a younger child, they wouldn’t have been able to get out.
“Children aren’t going to notice a small sign. There needs to be big red signs, because children learn that red means danger. Losing her trainers doesn’t matter. We want people to realise it’s dangerous.”
Wendy Knight, spokeswoman for Worthing Borough Council, said: “There’s nearly a drought everywhere and the water has been receding, leaving more mud. “There’s a sign in the middle of the pond, which we are re-painting. We also say that parents should keep an eye on their children at all times and should stay on the path.”