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11/22/2018 14:22 EST

Robbie Lea's Mother Praises Prince William For Trying To Save Her Son

“It shows our future king is human," said the mother of a 16-year-old who drowned last summer.

Eamonn M. McCormack via Getty Images
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, seen on Nov. 22, 2018 in London, England, tried to save Robbie Lea's life in 2017.

The mother of a teenage boy who drowned last summer has praised the Duke of Cambridge for his bravery in trying to save the boy's life.

Robbie Lea was 16 when he drowned while swimming on one of the hottest days of the year in Hertfordshire, U.K., in May 2017. Prince William was serving on an air ambulance team that tried to save Robbie after his friends called for help. The teenager was pulled from under about 15 feet of water, but a paramedic pronounced him dead at the scene, the Mirror reported after a June inquest.

This week, for the first time since the accident, Robbie's mother Sarah Lea is speaking publicly about her grief. She told the Mirror that she's taken some comfort in Prince William's role in trying to save her son's life.

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Prince William poses with the East Anglian Air Ambulance on July 27, 2017 near Cambridge, England.

She didn't realize he was involved until the day after Robbie's death, she said, when a friend told her, "A prince tried to save your prince."

Lea praised the Duke of Cambridge's involvement in emergency rescue services, as well as his candid discussions on the importance of mental health care.

"I can't thank Prince William enough," she told the Mirror. "For what he did to try to save my son on that terrible day and for now speaking out on mental health issues."

"It shows our future king is human. It was a brave thing to do."

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Prince William with his grandfather Prince Philip as he opens the East Anglian Air Ambulance base at Cambridge Airport on July 13, 2016.

Earlier this week, Prince William said that working as an air ambulance pilot got harder once he had children of his own. (He served as a co-pilot with East Anglian Air Ambulance between 2015 and 2017.) At a panel discussion in London on Tuesday, he said that he's started to get more emotional when he "worked several times on traumatic jobs involving children."

"The relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge," American Media Inc. reported him saying. "The only place you can talk about it is at work and if you don't necessarily have the right tools or the right environment at work you can see why things can snowball and get quite bad," he added, according to USA Today.

A recent Canadian study found that public safety personnel such as first responders are four times more likely to have mental health problems than the general population.

Watch: Prince William gets candid about his mental health. Story continues after the video.

Along with his wife Kate Middleton and his brother Prince Harry, in 2017 Prince William founded the Heads Together Initiative, which aims to remove the stigma facing mental illness.

Lea told the Mirror she hopes her story will make people more aware of the trauma that comes from grieving a child. She and her other son, Mason, haven't had much access to counselling or other mental health services since Robbie died, she said.

"There has been very little support at all. I am still in therapy with bereavement and psychiatric counselling but my father-in-law has had to pay for it privately," she said. "But I certainly haven't been let down by Prince William."

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