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Son of pensioner found dead in flooded home found her ‘floating in the water’

The son of an 83-year-old Derbyshire woman who was found dead after her home was hit by flooding has said he found his mother “floating in the water”.

Derbyshire Police have said a pensioner, named by family members as Maureen Gilbert, was found dead at about 10.35am on Saturday after officers – along with colleagues from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and from East Midlands Ambulance Service – arrived at her property.

Her son, Paul Gilbert, told Sky News: “I did not want to find my own mum and I expected somebody else to have found her.

“I go through so many different stages, anger, upset, I don’t know. I can’t put it into words what it means at the moment.

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“I came to the window behind you, forced it open and found my mum floating in the water.”

Mr Gilbert had attempted to secure his mother’s house with pre-installed flood defences.

He also told Sky News: “I thought I had done enough with the flood defences, that are nearly four foot high, that she would be alright.

“Everybody on the street did as much as they could on the pretext that the water would come.”

Neighbours of the 83-year-old have told how 5ft of water engulfed the inside of their properties.

Residents in Tapton Terrace, Chesterfield, said the flooding “within minutes” of the River Rother bursting its banks left them stranded, and awaiting rescue by the fire service using dinghies on Friday evening.

In a post on the GoFundMe fundraising page, the housebound pensioner’s daughter-in-law said her family “now only have memories as everything else is gone”.

Kaye Gilbert said Tapton Terrace had faced more severe floods than those experienced in 2007.

She wrote on the fundraising site: “Unfortunately yesterday the residents of Tapton terrace suffered terrible flooding again, the flood waters came in so fast they didn’t have time to prepare.

“My husband put his mother’s flood defences up to his chest in the doorways and made preparations to secure the house as he has done many times during such weather warnings.

Tapton Terrace
Water damage shows how high the water rose in a neighbouring property (Matthew Cooper/PA)

“However, when the river burst, the water just came pouring over at rapid speed and the defences did very little.

“The waters were much higher than the 2007 flood and came with a faster flow and pressure which resulted in my husband being stopped from trying to enter the property to check on his mum.”

Adding that her husband had found his mother’s body at the property, Mrs Gilbert added: “She had unfortunately been unable to escape upstairs at the speed the water levels were rising.

“Not only do we have an uninsured house as the excess for flood damage was over £10,000 to clean and restore but a funeral to pay for all whilst grieving. She lived on the street all her life, rebuilding after the 2007 flood was hard for us and her but this is just devastating.

“We now only have memories as everything else is gone.”

“We would be very grateful for any donation possible, to allow us to say our final goodbye and try to restore what we have left of the property she adored.”

Tapton Terrace resident Neil Mason paid tribute to Maureen as a “lovely woman” who always had a smile for neighbours passing her home.

The 48-year-old bricklayer, whose fridge freezer was floated onto a sofa by the flooding, said: “I came home from work every day and she would wave to me.

“She was just a really lovely woman, a really nice lady.

“We are a community down here and this has wrecked everybody’s lives. It was like a tidal wave. It was horrible.

“I got rescued by the fire services by a dinghy round the back. It was 5ft-deep inside and the water in the house had pinned the doors closed.”

The water rose “within minutes” to chest height, Mr Mason added.

Another local resident, who declined to give her name, said: “She would always say hello and chat. She had problems with mobility as she got older and what has happened is just so tragic.”

Derbyshire Police said in a statement: “Investigations are continuing into the circumstances of the incident and the cause is unascertained at this time.

“Her family are aware, and our thoughts are with them and their loved ones at this time.”

River gauge figures covering the Rother at nearby Tapton Bridge show the river peaked at a record 3.42m at 6.15pm on Friday, compared to its previous all-time high of 3.09m in June 2007.