A schoolboy died a hero as he tried to rescue three other youngsters who plunged into an icy lake, his distraught family revealed.

With no thoughts for his own safety, Jack Johnson dived into a freezing lake after hearing the screams of three struggling children.

But the 10-year-old paid the ­ultimate price for his courage as he too got into trouble and died, his family said.

And two of the youngsters he tried to save, aged 11 and eight, also passed away. A six-year-old remains critically ill in hospital.

As tributes poured in for the three victims, it was revealed one police officer used his bare hands to smash through the ice in a desperate bid to rescue the boys.

Colleagues arriving at a vigil for the tragic children last night were applauded for their bravery by hundreds of locals.

Firefighters who took part in the rescue also paid an emotional visit to the makeshift shrine next to the lake yesterday to lay tributes. One read: “Rest in peace boys.” They too were applauded.

Children clutching hot water bottles stood in silence as ­families of the victims lit candles and placed them at the base of a tree.

The three youngsters who plunged into the water on Sunday as they played are understood to all be members of the same family.

Jack’s aunt Charlotte McIlmurray posted online: “The 10-year-old boy is my nephew. He seen one go through the ice and he ran and tried to save them.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the other family. We are just broken over it. To find out he died trying to save three lads he didn’t even know, that just sums him up. He was amazing.”

Jack’s horrified family members raced to the scene as the rescue operation was taking place at Babbs Mill Lake in Solihull, West Mids.

His parents were being comforted by relatives. Supt Richard Harris, of West Midlands Police, told how one office tried to save the stricken boys. He said: “He was trying to punch through the ice to rescue the ­children themselves.” Resident Dan Hall, 38, rushed to the lake after hearing a commotion. He said a young sister of one of the boys witnessed the tragedy and other relatives tried to help.

Dan added: “I met a teenage girl on a bike who said some kids had got into trouble on the ice. She was a relative. She’d met up with a younger girl who was hysterical saying, ‘My brother, my brother.’

“They must have been in the water for 15 minutes. It was a further 20 minutes before they were being brought up on stretchers. You looked at what was happening and knew deep down that they were ­struggling to make it.

“It was just harrowing. Some people were very brave and the emergency services were amazing.”

Jack is understood to have been a pupil at St Anthony’s Roman ­Catholic Primary School in nearby Kingshurst. It was closed yesterday. Board of ­governors chair Marcus Brain said: “One of our ­children has passed away.

“I’ve spoken to the family. The staff are absolutely devastated. The lad was a lovely boy. Everyone is in bits. We’re all in shock.”

The 11-year-old victim was named locally as Thomas.

Local Katie O’Driscoll, 32, said: “He was the first to be pulled from the lake but he has passed away. I heard the others went in to try to rescue him. It’s really hard to imagine what those parents are going through.”

Friends said Thomas was a pupil at Park Hall Academy in Castle ­Bromwich, Birmingham.

The school tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved and our local ­community at this extremely difficult time.”

Several relatives of the dead boys visited the lake yesterday but were too upset to talk.

One tribute read: “To my friend Thomas. Thanks for being there for me when I was sad.

“Thanks for lending me your jacket when I was cold. You were like a brother to me. I miss you so much.”

West Midlands mayor Andy Street also left a floral tribute, with a card which read: “Such a tragedy.” Police search teams continued to scour the freezing lake last night for any other victims of the tragedy.

But Supt Harris said nobody else was reported missing, despite fears six boys may have been involved.

Fire chief Richard Stanton said the tragedy was a “stark reminder” of the dangers of open water.

He added: “Frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can look ­picturesque but they can be lethal.

“There are no greater warnings of this than yesterday’s tragic events.

“We would ask parents and carers to remind their children of the dangers of ice and why they must keep off it.

“Please help us to avoid this from happening again.”

Local resident Dan Hall, 38, raced to the scene after hearing a commotion from his nearby home.

He told the Mirror: “On the way down to the lake I met a teenage girl on a bike who said that some kids had got into trouble on the ice.

“The teenage girl was trying to comfort her younger cousin and saying it was going to be alright.

“They must have been in the water for 15 minutes.

“It was just harrowing. Some people were very brave and the emergency services were amazing.

Supt Richard Harris, of West Midlands Police, said one officer used his bare hands to smash through the ice to rescue the boys.

“He was trying to punch through the ice to rescue the children themselves,” he said.

“As a result of that, the officer had some mild hypothermia. But he is now fine and out of hospital.”

He said the families of the three boys were “absolutely devastated” by their deaths.

“This time of year, in the run-up to Christmas, so close to the event itself, also adds to the tragedy.”

Firefighters who took part in the rescue paid an emotional visit to the makeshift shrine next to the lake on Monday.

Locals began applauding as the men, from Sheldon Red Watch, lay a floral tribute and bowed their heads.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street also left a floral tribute, with a card which read: “Such a tragedy.

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