Maldon Drowning Investigation & Court Case see also Inquest Page, Main Maldon page & Maldon FOI Request May 2012
BBC News 18 July Michelle Gellard swimming pool death: Leisure firm fined Text reproduced in full
A leisure firm will have to pay nearly £200,000 for a health and safety breach in which a seven-year-old girl died.
Michelle Gellard was pulled unconscious from the pool at Blackwater Leisure Centre, in Maldon, Essex, in June 2008.
Bedfordshire-based Leisure Connection Ltd, which runs the centre, admitted failing to ensure the safety of a member of the public.
At Chelmsford Crown Court the company was fined £90,000 and told to pay prosecution costs of £101,000.
In a statement, her parents Mark and Sian Gellard said: "As a family, life is still very difficult without Michelle.
"We are still trying to come to terms with what happened. She is dearly missed by all the family and in our thoughts every day."
Leisure Connection declined to comment on the case.
'Tragic and untimely'
An inquest into Michelle's death returned a verdict of accidental death by immersion.
The inquest jury heard Michelle, from the Isle of Dogs in east London, had been competing in a judo competition at the centre and went for a swim after winning a silver medal.
She was pulled out of the pool by a lifeguard and fellow swimmer, but staff were unable to resuscitate her. She was flown to Colchester General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The inquest heard she had suffered a mild head injury while in judo class.
After the hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector Antonina Drury said: "This tragic and untimely death should never have happened.
"Members of the public visiting leisure centre swimming pools have an entitlement to expect that the operator paid to run them will deploy and train its staff so as to provide sufficient numbers of lifeguards in the right places so as to operate the pool safely."
HSE Press Statement 18 July Leisure centre operator sentenced after child drowning
The operator of an Essex leisure centre has been ordered to pay more than £190,000 in fines and costs after a seven year-old girl drowned in a swimming pool.
Michelle Gellard, from East London, died after she went swimming with a number of other children at the Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon on 14 June 2008 after attending a judo competition.
Bedfordshire-based Leisure Connection Ltd, which operates the pool, was prosecuted today (18 July) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into the death identified serious failings with lifeguard cover.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard there were two lifeguards on poolside duty on the day, increasing to three lifeguards when members of the public found Michelle at the bottom of the pool's deep end.
One of the lifeguards retrieved Michelle from the water with the assistance of another swimmer. Sadly, despite resuscitation attempts, she was later pronounced dead at Colchester General Hospital.
The HSE investigation concluded that Leisure Connection Ltd failed over a period of time to ensure that sufficient, suitably positioned lifeguards were always on poolside duty to ensure the safety of pool users.
The court was told the company had failed to identify that this leisure centre was not compliant with its own procedures, and that the procedures in place at the site were inadequate.
Leisure Connection Ltd, of Potton House, Wyboston Lakes, Great North Road, Wyboston, Bedfordshire, was fined £90,000 with costs of £101,663 after admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Antonina Drury said:
"This tragic and untimely death should never have happened. Members of the public visiting leisure centre swimming pools have an entitlement to expect that the operator paid to run them will deploy and train its staff so as to provide sufficient numbers of life guards in the right places so as to operate the pool safely. In this case, Michelle Gellard was robbed of her chances of rescue and survival by Leisure Connection's failures.
"Evidence emerged in the course on the investigation that Leisure Connection failed to identify and address the fact that the amount of life guarding it was paying its staff to provide at Blackwater Leisure Centre was noticeably less than the amount it knew was required for full and safe operation of the pool."22.8.12 Essex County Standard by Gareth Burton Reproduced in full apart from picture
Firm charged after Maldon pool tragedy of Michelle, 7The Health and Safety Executive has said it planned to prosecute Leisure Connection, which runs the pool for Maldon District Council. The company is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court next month, charged with breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. A section of the Act states it is the employer’s duty to ensure “so far as is reasonably practicable” those not in its employment are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
4.5.11 Press Release by Solicitors Representing Family of Michelle Gellard www.hja.net/legal-news/hja-news/gellard-inquest.aspx
Inquest into death of 7 year old girl who died in public pool
Mark Gellard, the father of Michelle, said: "My
partner and I are still grieving for our daughter. She was our pride
and joy. She always brought a smile to our faces and it is hard knowing
we will never again get to hold our daughter and tell her that we love
her. She will never be forgotten. We
don't want this to happen to another child. It the most heartbreaking
thing to go though and we hope that lessons are learnt from this."
4.5.11 Inquest to begin into death of eight-year-old who died in Maldon pool Maldon & Burnham Standard www.maldonandburnhamstandard.co.uk/news/9006922.Inquest_to_begin_into_death_of_eight_year_old_who_died_in_Maldon_pool/
family of a young girl who died at a council swimming pool are hoping
for answers when an inquest into her death begins next week.
16.4.10 Sacked After Rescue & Blackwater Investigation
This week’s St Albans & Harpenden Review carried a story about three young LC/Harpers Lifeguards who saved an 80-year old swimmer one week and were made redundant the next. They were awarded medals and congratulated on their training, but sadly are still unemployed after their centre closed in February. www.stalbansreview.co.uk/news/8104333.Lifeguards_save_swimmer_in_Bricket_Wood_pool_final_drama/
The story made me wonder how much longer before the HSE reports on what happened in the tragic drowning of Michelle Gellard in June 2008 at Blackwater Leisure Centre?
Despite concerns being raised in 2008 about Maldon Council, owner of the centre and overseer of LC/Harper’s contract to manage it, having a role in the HSE enquiry, the Council continued to be part of the investigation until November 2009. In February of this year, the Maldon Standard reported that, “Late last year the HSE agreed to take control of the investigation.” www.maldonandburnhamstandard.co.uk/news/localnews/4996239.Safety_investigations_continue_in_the_Maldon_district_/
As far as I know, no reasons have been given for ceasing Maldon’s role in the investigation. Perhaps this will be made clear in the HSE report?
And how much longer for this report? Every case is different, but it appears from another report into a child drowning (in a pool that has nothing to do with LC/Harpers), two years may not be enough. Luke Hutton aged seven drowned in Dundee in September 2007. The HSE reported on that incident, which involved a £40k fine for inadequate supervision and other failings, in November 2009. www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2009/11/18/newsstory14125175t0.asp
Of course such investigations must be thorough, but there is also a need for lessons to be learned quickly. For example, what if lessons from Dundee had been available sooner – might this have saved a life in another part of the country? It would be interesting to know if other pool operators knew anything about what went so wrong in Dundee before the full HSE report.
At one stage, a solicitor was acting on behalf of Michelle's parents (see below) . Nothing has been heard lately of this legal action, and material relating to it has been removed from the solcitor's website, which prompts speculation about a deal between LC/Harpers and the family. If any party involved issues a denial of such a deal, LCW will be happy to include it here. Some of the solicitor's material appears below.PB27.6.08 Maldon District Council Press Release BLACKWATER LEISURE CENTRE INCIDENT - SATURDAY 14 JUNE 2008 http://www.maldon.gov.uk/Welcome+To+Maldon/NewsAndPressReleases/blackwaterleisurecentreincident.htm
Maldon District Council has recently expressed their concern with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in relation to the Council investigating the tragic incident at Blackwater Leisure Centre on Saturday 14th June.
This concern was raised by Council’s Solicitor as the Council is not only responsible for the investigation, as agreed by the Health & Safety Executive, but also undertakes a contract monitoring role in relation to the Leisure Connection contract.
It was felt therefore, that this could be viewed as a conflict of interest both by the Council and the general public.
In a letter to the Health and Safety Executive, the Council’s Solicitor wished to seek confirmation from the Health & Safety Executive’s lawyers that they were happy for Maldon District Council to undertake the investigation in light of this concern.
The Health & Safety Executive’s lawyers have confirmed that they are happy for Maldon District Council to investigate the incident and they have also agreed that they will simultaneously undertake a review of the Council’s contract monitoring of Leisure Connection.
Leader of Maldon District Council, Cllr Mrs Penny Channer, said: “I am pleased that the Health & Safety Executive has agreed to our request to undertake a simultaneous review into the Council’s contract monitoring of Leisure Connection. We want to ensure that there is absolute transparency into the investigation being conducted into Michelle’s tragic death and this, I hope, will ensure that this is the case. The Council felt it was important that this issue be addressed to ensure that there was clarity of roles in the investigation”.
No further comments will be made in relation to the Council’s investigation into the tragic incident as enquiries are still ongoing.
I find this press release confusing and worrying. The
Council claims to have raised a concern with HSE because the general public
might perceive a conflict of interest but HSE say fine, go ahead anyway and we
will check how you monitored the contract. For the sake of argument,
let's imagine that the council was grossly negligent in its monitoring of the
contract or the enforcing of standards - would it then be acceptable for the
council to take the key role in investigating?
HEARTBREAKING tape recordings of frantic phone 999 calls made in the moments
after a young girl was found in the deep end of a swimming pool have been
released. The calls were made from Blackwater Leisure Centre, Maldon,
after seven-year-old Michelle Gellard was pulled from the water and reveal
confusion surrounding the tragic events in June...
9.9.08 Solicitors Make Recordings of Emergency Calls Available Online
Hodge, Jones & Allan, representing the Gellard Family, have made copies of two calls made from Blackwater Leisure Centre to 999 in connection with the drowning in June of Michelle Gellard. The distressing recordings can be heard via their News page http://www.hodge-jones-allen.co.uk/Default.aspx?sID=45&lID=0 They are not for the faint hearted.
The legal firm's press release, available from the same page, includes the following "Background Briefing".
Michelle Gellard drowned at Blackwater Leisure Centre on 14 June 2008. Michelle was found unconscious at the deep end of the pool by a member of the public. The family contends that:
Two calls were made to emergency services.
A spokesman for Leisure Connection Ltd told the Maldon & Burnham Standard - “The family’s claim has
been received and has been passed to our lawyers. We have no further
comments to make at this stage”.
Parents of a little girl who died after being found unconscious in a public swimming pool are to sue the company
28.8.08 The London Paper
The parents of a seven-year-old girl from east London who died after being found unconscious in a public swimming pool said today they were suing the company that runs it. Michelle Gellard, from the Isle of Dogs, was found by a member of the public in the deep end of the pool at Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon, Essex in June. Her parents said lifeguards had failed to notice she was in difficulties. They also claimed that when leisure centre staff called the emergency services they failed to make the operator aware of the seriousness of Michelle's condition delaying the ambulance's arrival. The pool is run by Leisure Connection Limited for Maldon District Council.
Father Mark Gellard said: "My wife Sian and I are devastated that our beautiful daughter Michelle died as a result of this incident. We want to know why the lifeguards at the pool appear not to have noticed that Michelle was drowning, despite the fact the pool was not busy at the time. We also want to know why the staff at the leisure centre failed to report in the first emergency call that it was a drowning incident and said Michelle was 'OK' and 'conscious', when in fact she required emergency resuscitation. As a result emergency medical help was delayed which may have lost the chance to save her life. It is essential that lessons are learned so this does not happen to anyone else."
Michelle's parents are also calling for the Health and Safety Executive to widen their investigation. The council's role in the tragedy is being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive but the council has been charged with looking at the leisure centre.
Peter Todd, a partner at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, representing Michelle's parents, said: "Michelle's parents want a full and independent investigation into this incident carried out. We have asked the HSE to review their decision only to investigate the involvement of the council. We would like them also to investigate the involvement of Leisure Connection Limited. There are questions to ask about the lifeguarding and handling of the emergency response. How can Maldon District Council conduct a proper investigation if it also may have contributed to what has happened here? If on review the decision is not changed, we reserve the right to challenge the decision by seeking judicial review if necessary."
A spokesman for the HSE said that the council retained the legal responsibility for the enforcement of health and safety legislation despite having contracted out the operation of the centre. He said: "The roles are pretty clearly set out in the legislation."
An inquest into the girl's death will be held after the HSE investigation is completed.
Father Claims First Ambulance Was Cancelled
From Total Essex http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/news/did-little-girl-die/article-190130-detail/article.html
The father of Michelle Gellard responding to speculation on Total Essex that his daughter was alone.
one my daughter was not alone someone was looking after her by an adult my daughter was in the shallow end of the pool how the hell did she get to the deep end without lifeguards seeing her and why did the first ambulance get canceled by someone because they said she was breathing .I have lost the precious thing in my life my daughter she was cheeky and made people happy we loved her dearly we would never have let her go swimming if we knew this would happen to her we will always love our princess. she was a clever and confident child she was unique and she can never be replace so please don't say she was alone because she wasn't i loved my little girl so much she was happy on the day and i will remember her being happy
mark gellard, london commented on 18-Jun-2008 22:34
The Total Essex article that prompted the speculation now concludes, "The company said Michelle was attending the “Fun for All” public swim session on Saturday, accompanied by a family member. The spokesman said there was an adequate number of lifeguards on duty." PB
Claims About Pool Not Being Busy and Discovery Made By Young Swimmer Further Comments on Lifeguarding
What's Happening to Drowning Enquiry?
Some Comments from Locals and Others Following the Drowning Tragedy
From Total Essex http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/news/Girl-7-dies-Maldon-swimming-pool-accident-UPDATED/article-190130-detail/article.html
A terrible tragedy like this deserves a full enquiry before any conclusions are drawn. However, some of the concerns expressed about lifeguarding match my own experiences and written complaints to LC and Brent and Harrow Councils. As do the comments about failure to clean properly. PB
I feel very strongly about this tragic incident, several hours before this little girl drowned, I watched the 'lifeguards' for over 15 minutes not paying any attention to the pool. If the lifeguards were more responsible and managed properly then would this have happened?......we shall never know.
On the Monday afterwards I started my own enquiries into who and what course the investigation was to be taken. It had been passed quickly by the police to the Health and Safety Executive, however on speaking with the Health and Safety Executive they had passed this on to Maldon Council and were not investigating.....quite opposite to what the local papers were stating.
In fact initially the only department acting from Maldon Council was the press office, I was not convinced they were investigating adequately, since then I have had contact assuring me a proper investigation will be taking place. I am not convinced and shall not rest until I am satisfied.
My sympathy to the family. Jamie Campbell, Maldon commented on 25-Jun-2008 22:10
By Marcus Leroux and Elizabeth Manzi
seven-year-old girl drowned during a fun session at a busy swimming
pool, despite the efforts of lifeguards. An attendant leapt into the
pool to haul out the unconscious girl in front of swimmers after she
was seen under the water at Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon, Essex.
She was airlifted to Colchester General Hospital on Saturday afternoon, but pronounced dead at the hospital within an hour.
From Newsquest 13.1.05 Reproduced in full http://snipurl.com/hflq