THE heartbroken family of ‘the kind-hearted and free spirited’ Haydn Griffiths who died last week in the Mersey have paid tribute to him.

Haydn Winrow Griffiths from Lowton went missing as he was trying to swim to the windfarm off New Brighton while on a first date on Tuesday, July 19.

Leigh Journal: The Griffiths family, Bryn, Megan, Diane, Brogan and Haydn with guide dog HopeThe Griffiths family, Bryn, Megan, Diane, Brogan and Haydn with guide dog Hope

After extensive searches led by emergency services, his family and the community, his body was found off Pier Head in Liverpool on Sunday, July 24.

His family agreed to talk to the Journal to put together a tribute to him, thank those who helped the search and to urge others to be safe in the water.

His mum Diane, dad Bryn, sisters Megan and Brogan and gran Nana Bet came together to share their memories of Haydn and the legacy he has left behind.

Leigh Journal: Hadyn sailingHadyn sailing Haydn’s mum Diane said: “Haydn was a qualified marine engineer, and he was one exam away from being an officer, his exam was set for August 17.

“He loved being out in nature and he loved being on the water and joined Leigh and Lowton sailing club at six with his dad Bryn and the family. Him and Brogan shared a boat. He just loved being outside.”

Haydn had won several awards for his sailing, including the 2016 Youth National and even took part in boxing, but wanted to be a sea farer so he could “explore the world”.

Leigh Journal: Megan and Haydn, open water swimming at Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club, where Haydn also did safety rescue boat dutiesMegan and Haydn, open water swimming at Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club, where Haydn also did safety rescue boat duties

Former Lowton High student Haydn had been home since June after working at sea and had a ‘bucket list’ of things he wanted to do before going to sit his final exams.

Diane, Megan and Brogan shared the details of the final day, in the hopes that others will be safe in water.

Leigh Journal: Brogan, Megan and Haydn - the three siblings had so many adventures togetherBrogan, Megan and Haydn - the three siblings had so many adventures together

Diane added: “Haydn started his day going to the gm which he did that or climbing then studied then he popped his head around the door of the lounge about 4pm and said I’m popping out and that he was going to the beach with someone – he implied he was going out with a girl so we were comforted knowing he was going out on a lovely day.

“We went to bed that evening and it wasn’t until 11.30pm when Brogan woke us up to say Haydn’s best friend Rhys had messaged saying Haydn was in trouble, so we got in the van and went to New Brighton and what we saw there was like something out of a movie.

Leigh Journal: Nana Winrow and HaydnNana Winrow and Haydn

“So many people, the coastguard, police, RNLI, were doing everything they could and that’s when we met the girl he’d been on a date with that day.”

The family explained how Haydn had been on a first date and the adventure loving pair decided on the very hot day to go to New Brighton beach, with their plans eventually leading to a swim to the windfarm.

Leigh Journal: A picture of Haydn taken earlier this monthA picture of Haydn taken earlier this month

Megan, 29, said: “The information we have is from the lovely girl he was on a date with who said they swam out to the windfarm and were talking away and having a lovely time but the tide turned and they started to come back.

“The current was against them and then she explained that a huge jellyfish swam past her and stung her leg. A few seconds later Haydn complained that something had hurt both of his legs.”

The pair kept swimming, but Haydn, who was advanced in sea survival and diving, said he felt ‘tired’.

Leigh Journal: Haydn with family on VE DayHaydn with family on VE Day

Megan added: “The girl said she started panicking then but Haydn calmed her down, told her to look at the sun as it was setting and carry on swimming back to the beach and get help.

“She didn’t want to leave him, but he said he’d keep shouting to say he was ok which she says he did even when she made it to the beach.

“She called emergency services who turned up in minutes but somewhere between that time he stopped shouting.

“But I know my brother, I know how determined and strong he is and how prepared he was so I knew that if anyone could survive, it would be him.”

Leigh Journal: Nana Bet and Haydn on their joint 80th and 21st birthday partyNana Bet and Haydn on their joint 80th and 21st birthday party

Diane, a former manager at Wigan and Leigh College, added: “We are a very open and transparent family, and we have trackers on our phones so we know each other are safe.

“We saw on his tracker that he was parked at Derby Pool, which with not being local we took to be a pool and not a pub, but that was only where his phone in the car was.

“When we spoke to the girl and then Megan arrived back from work abroad, she inspired us to search. And honestly the response we had was phenomenal.”

Leigh Journal: Haydn with eldest sister MeganHaydn with eldest sister Megan

Hundreds of people trawled the coast from Lytham to Anglesey, all along the Mersey, to the Isle of Man and even Ireland over the weekend, with search parties including jet skiers, drones, a rescue boat from Leigh and Lowton sailing club and people who had never met previously teaming up, and friends and family from far and wide.

Megan said: “We had people out with torches and whistles who did everything they could to find him and honestly, we just want to say thank you. Even the night he was found people were still planning searches for him, they didn’t give up and that means so much.

“Now we know that while we were on the beach preparing for a boat to go out, the lights we saw the other side of the water, was Haydn being found.”

Leigh Journal: Haydn with parents Bryn and Diane at sister Brogan's graduationHaydn with parents Bryn and Diane at sister Brogan's graduation

The family, who had set up camp at the Holiday Inn in Hoylake, were told the news by police officers and since then have been inundated with messages of condolence and support.

Brogan, 27, who is 32 weeks pregnant, said: “We wouldn’t have stood down if he hadn’t had been found, he knew that.

“Even in horrible circumstances he brought people together, showed what a community effort can do and now we hope his legacy can be encouraging people to come together more especially out in nature.”

Nana Bet, 83, added: “He did so much in his short life. He achieved so much, he was such a free spirited and kind-hearted person.”

Diane added: “People came out in droves to support us when we needed help, even older people on mobility scooters had binoculars looking for him. That comradery and community spirit was electric.

“Haydn loved people, he was so kind and respectful of others and brought so many people together. “Both myself and Bryn are glad at how we raised the children and truly have no regrets because we spent so much time all together.

“I hope his legacy is that people appreciate their loved ones more, be adventurous, get out in nature and most of all be safe.

“If this freak accident can happen to someone prepared like Haydn then it can happen to anyone.

Leigh Journal: Megan, Haydn and Brogan in the waterMegan, Haydn and Brogan in the water

“We would like to thank the amazing community support shown to us as well as the emergency services. It means so much that you never gave up on Haydn.”

Haydn died aged 23 and leaves behind his doting parents Bryn and Diane, sisters Megan and Brogan, grandparents Nana Bet Griffiths, and Colin and Maureen Winrow and uncles Mark and Lee plus extended family.

A candlelit vigil will take place in Haydn’s memory on Monday, August 1.