DEVOTED cousins died after they became entangled in weeds in an Austrian lake and drowned.

An inquest in Bolton heard how Joel Aniyankunj, aged 19, and 15-year-old Jason Varghese were more like brothers and, when the younger boy got into difficulties in the Old Danube lake, near Vienna, his older cousin swam to help him.

On August 23 last year Joel, of Martin Avenue, Farnworth and Jason, of Primrose Avenue, Farnworth, were on holiday with their families, visiting relatives in Vienna.

Acting senior coroner Alan Walsh heard how the weather was very hot and the boys were getting bored so relatives offered to take them boating at the lake, a popular leisure spot.

The group of seven hired a boat and Jason, a pupil at St James CE High School, and Joel, an IT apprentice and former Bury College student, got into the water to swim at around 2pm.

Mr Walsh said: "One of the people on the boat noticed that Jason was becoming distressed or panicking a bit.

"His brother, Jenson heard him say, 'I think I'm sinking'"

But Joel called to his cousin, "Don't panic, I'm coming."

Witnesses told how the teenagers then both disappeared below the water.

"There was no thrashing around. It was a case of them being dragged down or going under the water," said Mr Walsh.

The alarm was raised and divers searched the water, recovering Joel's body at 6.20pm and Jason almost an hour later. They had both drowned and a police report stated that they had become entangled in weeds and "creepers" which grew under the surface of the cloudy water.

Members of the boys' families were at Bolton Coroners' Court and their mothers, Suby Varghese and Susan Aniyankunj, questioned why, at the lake, there had been no weed clearance, warning signs or life saving equipment.

"If someone had done their job of clearing the vegetation and putting up signs Joel and Jason would be here today," said Mrs Varghese.

The boys' families are now taking part in the Safe 4 Summer campaign aimed at keeping people safe in open water in the UK and Mr Walsh pledged to write to the Austrian Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism to ask for a review of safety measures at the lake.

"I will ask the government to take account of the deaths of Joel and Jason in the manner in which we believe they occurred and I'll ask them to consider signage and life saving equipment," he said.

Recording a conclusion that Joel and Jason's deaths were "accidental", Mr Walsh described the boys as having "exemplary characters."

"They were the sons that families would be proud to have as their sons — popular, intelligent, athletic, caring and loving to their families," he added.

And he commended the families' determination to become involved in the Safe 4 Summer campaign. He said: "I am extremely grateful you, amidst all your grief, will support that campaign."

Speaking after the hearing the Mrs Varghese said they were becoming involved in memory of their sons. "They were such caring children, they wouldn't want anyone else to go through this," she said.