THE mum of a baby boy who died after being recovered from the River Irwell has  paid tribute to her ‘cheeky little chappie’ with a ‘smile that could melt hearts.’

11-month-old Zakari William Bennett-Eko died after he was rescued from the water near to Blackburn Bridge, Radcliffe, at around 4.25pm on Wednesday.

Emergency services attended and the baby boy was retrieved from the water and quickly taken to hospital, where he died a short time later despite the efforts of paramedics and specialist doctors. 

Paying tribute to him, Zakari’s mum Emma Blood, said: “On Wednesday afternoon my life changed forever. 

“I woke up that morning being a mummy to the most wonderful cute little boy and by the afternoon Zakari was taken from me in the most tragic of circumstances. 

“Zakari was my life for 11 months and will be the heart of our family for many years to come. 

“He was a cheeky little chappie with a smile that melted hearts. He was the youngest of 5 generations of our family and was loved beyond belief. 

“Zakari wrapped everyone around his little finger. He was a happy and content baby with a gorgeous little smile and a head full of curls. Everyone that met him fell in love with him instantly. 

“It’s hard to comprehend what has happened and that I will not get to see my baby grow up to be the handsome decent man I knew he would become. 

“My family and I would like to thank everybody for their continued support, it is very much appreciated and would like to ask for privacy at his traumatic time.” 

Specialist officers are continuing to support his family at this devastating time. 
On Thursday evening  people united in grief as Radcliffe mourned the death of the youngster. 

Trewan Sands Children’s Trust, along with The Bridge Tavern, held a memorial near to where poignant tributes have been laid in memory of the baby who died on Wednesday.

Many carrying their own floral tributes stood on the bridge, some with their families, some alone and young friends formed the gathering as they shared grief and shock at the events which unfolded on Wednesday night.

At one point they broke into a spontaneous applause to honour Zakari, and spent time reading the many tributes to him. Flowers, toys and candles now cover the bridge on Blackburn Street.

Louise Dawson from Trewan Sands Children’s Trust, said: “I regularly organise charity events on the piazza and when I heard about what had happened I felt as if I had to do something to bring people together. People are grieving.”

Jacqueline Farquar said: “Radcliffe is a close knit community, people know each other and everyone is very upset.”