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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, 7

A COMPANY behind a swimming pool where a schoolgirl died is being prosecuted for alleged negligence.
Michelle Gellard, seven, died at Blackwater Leisure Centre, in Maldon, in June 2008 after visiting the pool with friends.

The 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.

Michelle, of East London, had been taking part in a judo tournament. After competing, she was taken to the pool, along with five other children, by the mother of one of the youngsters.Michelle was found unconscious in the water. In May last year, a week-long inquest found she died as a result of an accident.

Leisure Connection, which runs more than 70 leisure and arts facilities in the UK, is due to appear in court on September 11. 

Councillor Bob Boyce, leader of Maldon District Council, said: “The council is aware the Health and Safety Executive has decided to take legal action against Leisure Connection. We will not comment while this legal process is under way.” 

A Leisure Connection spokesman said he could not comment.

And who was LC's Chief Executive in the years leading up to the drowning? Graham Farrant, a former council Environmental Health Officer, a profession known for their knowledge of healthy and safety law and good practice. Graham became CE of Thurrock Council in 2010, so if he is asked to attend the court he won't have too far to travel. PB

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 

After nearly three years an Inquest into the death of Michelle Gellard, a 7 year old girl who died at the Blackwater Leisure Centre pool in 2008, is due to take place next week.

 On 14 June 2008 Michelle Gellard, along with her mother, Sian Lakey, attended the Blackwater Leisure Centre, Maldon, Essex, to take part in a Judo competition. Michelle’s father Mark Gellard was working that morning from 6.00am to 1.00pm in East London.

 Michelle went for a swim in the swimming pool after she had finished competing in the judo competition. Ms Lakey remained in the main hall with her niece in the competition and had initially refused Michelle permission to swim; however she eventually agreed after one of the other parents, Ms Zoeteman had offered to supervise Michelle in the pool.

Unfortunately Michelle went missing in the pool and was found under the water in the deep end by another customer. After failed attempts by St John’s ambulance crew to resuscitate Michelle at the Centre, she was taken by air ambulance to Colchester General Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Confusion at the swimming pool caused wrong information to be passed to the ambulance service in a 999 call which meant the emergency ambulance response was delayed.

 The Inquest hearing has been listed for nine days, from 9th to 20th May 2011 at the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford, before HM Coroner for Essex and Thurrock, Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray, sitting with a jury. It will seek to establish the exact cause of Michelle’s death and the role of those present on the day, including the lifeguards on duty. The Gellard family, Maldon District Council, Leisure Connection and the St. John’s Ambulance will all be represented.

The Blackwater Leisure Centre is owned by Maldon District Council, but is managed by Leisure Connection Ltd, a private company which runs numerous such swimming pools in the UK.

In May 2010 there was another incident of a near drowning also involving a young girl swimming at the same pool. After this further incident the Health and Safety Executive served an enforcement notice under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 against the swimming 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."

Peter Todd, the solicitor for the Gellard family, said: "This case potentially has significant implications for all those involved in lifeguarding or managing a swimming pool, and for parents of children using a pool. It is important lessons are learned to ensure this particularly distressing tragedy never happens again." 

The Gellard family has commenced a civil claim for negligence against Leisure Connection Ltd, however this has been stayed until after the conclusion of the Inquest. 

The Inquest has been delayed largely because the Gellard family challenged the decision that the investigation into Michelle’s death should be conducted by Maldon District Council. The family issued proceedings for a judicial review on the basis that any investigation conducted by the Council would be prejudiced as they would in effect be investigating their own involvement in Michelle’s death. At the end of 2009, a settlement was reached between the parties that resulted in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) taking over the investigation from the Council

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/

THE 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.

Michelle Gellard was eight years old when she died in the pool at Blackwater Leisure Centre, Maldon, on June 14 2008.

The inquest is expected to last nine days, starting on Monday at the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford. Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray will hear evidence from the lifeguards on duty, Maldon District Council, the Gellard family, the St John Ambulance and Leisure Connection, which manages the pool.

Mark Gellard, Michelle's father, 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.”

Family solicitor Peter Todd said: "This case potentially has significant implications for all those involved in lifeguarding or managing a swimming pool, and for parents of children using a pool. It is important lessons are learned to ensure this particularly distressing tragedy never happens again.”

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.PB

27.6.08  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?

Secondly, it appears from Cllr. Channer's statement that despite the concern about perceptions of conflict of interest a request was made to HSE for a simultaneous review of the Council's monitoring. This appears to suggest that the Council proposed such an arrangement.  "Absolute transparency" would be best served by a fully independent enquiry.

Thirdly, given that I have made six written complaints to Harrow Council and twelve to Brent about lapses in lifeguard monitoring at pools managed by Leisure Connection,  there may be a wider issue that deserves investigation.

Fourthly, where is the request for users of Blackwater Leisure Centre who are prepared to make statements that they feel may be relevant to a thorough investigation? There is not even a named official or address for enquiries given. PB

10.10.08  Recordings of  Emergency Calls Removed From Web from Suffolk and Essex Online  By James Hore  http://www.eadt.co.uk/content/eadt/news/story.aspx?brand=EADOnline&category=News&tBrand=EADOnline&tCategory=News&itemid=IPED09%20Oct%202008%2023%3A37%3A14%3A613  

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...

The East of England Ambulance Service agreed to hand over the recordings of the 999 calls to Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, who are acting for Michelle's parents, Mark Gellard and Sian Lakey. The couple, from the Isle of Dogs, London, have instructed lawyers over the fatal incident at the pool, run by Leisure Connection, claiming “incomplete and inaccurate” information was given about their daughter's condition.

At one point in the first 999 call, heard by the EADT, the operator was informed the youngster had been choking before being told she was “okay” and “conscious”.  The woman making the call states: “I have just been told by someone who has seen her that she is okay now.”

The operator explains the ambulance is still on its way and to make sure that the youngster does not eat or drink anything. However in a second recording the tone is more frantic because Michelle was not breathing. Staff from St John's Ambulance help her and the operator is told “she is not breathing”.

“She has not been conscious since we have been here…She is out of the water, she is not breathing - she has had CPR since she came out of the water,” the operator is told.  The tapes also state there was no defibrillator available.

The Health and Safety Executive is investigating the incident. Last night Leisure Connection issued a statement which read: “This matter is being dealt with by our legal advisers. We are not making any further comment whilst the investigation into this tragic incident takes place.”

Hodge Jones & Allen declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the ambulance service said: “The firm acting for the family contacted the East of England Ambulance Service to ask for a copy of the call, which was given to them to be used in confidence. The ambulance service's solicitor subsequently contacted the firm to request it amend the website to remove the tape, which has been done. The investigation into Michelle's death is ongoing, and so it would be inappropriate to comment further on the call itself.” ...

The tapes referred to in the item immediately below have been removed from the solicitors' website. However, a summary of their content still appears under 9.9.08 and in the lawyer's August press release http://www.hodge-jones-allen.co.uk/FileServer.aspx?oID=387&lID=0. (16.4.10 -Now removed). PB

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:

  • Lifeguards failed to notice Michelle get into difficulty at the deep end of the pool.
  • Inaccurate information given by leisure centre staff to the emergency services caused the urgency of the response to be substantially downgraded, resulted in a significant delay (currently unknown but estimated at between 15 and 30 minutes).

Two calls were made to emergency services.

  • First call: A member of staff from the leisure centre reports an “unconscious child” who is choking. They do not say she has been found under water or that it is a drowning incident. The caller then says that they have been told that the child is “ok” and is now “conscious”. The ambulance service says an ambulance is on the way, but downgrades the response as a result of the information.
  • Second call: The caller wants to know why no ambulance has attended and makes clear that Michelle has been rescued from the swimming pool but that she is not breathing or conscious. There is a discussion about the fact that no defibrillator is available and no-one qualified to resuscitate young children is available.

 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
  • My sympathies to the family of this little girl and in coping with their tragic loss. I agree it seems poor that a volunteer adminstered the life saving attempt and not a properly trained lifeguard but I assume the best possible treatment was given. Unrealated, I too have complained about this pool for being freezing cold and for the filthiness of the changing area and lack of warm showers. I think its classic case of councils losing control over facilitiies as they hive them off to private firms who take the profits and take shortcuts with heating, cleanliness etc. The lagoon section has been closed off for years, I wonder if that's because they didn't want the expense of providing guards to monitor it?
    Scott, Chelmsford   commented on 16-Jun-2008 22:27
  • Before I moved from Maldon, (6 months ago) I used Blackwater pool frequently, not out of choice but it was my nearest pool. I and several family members have complained on countless occasions about the cleanliness (or lack of it), We have also brought to the centres attention how the lifeguards spend their shift with their heads in a locker texting people or messing about, gossiping etc among themselves. Maybe they are just to young to see what a responsible job being a lifeguard is and the terrible price someone has to pay when your mind is not fully on the job, a member of the public should never have had to pull out this little girl or a St Johns cadets administer mouth to mouth. The lifeguards should be on the ball and fully trained to deal with this.
    Why is there no mention of the lifeguards playing any part in this tragic accident? This should be investigated.
    Emma, Kent  commented on 16-Jun-2008 20:17 
  • This is not the first incident like this to happen at Blackwater. My sister pulled someone unconcious from the water seven or eight years even though there were life guards on duty at the time. Michelle, Essex  commented on 16-Jun-2008 13:33  (This may have been before LC won the contract. PB)
  • As an ex lifeguard who spent many years around pools I do wonder what the lifeguards were doing on this sad afternoon. My experience at many pools nowadays is such that I will not leave my grandchildren out of my sight at all when going swimming, I feel no confidence in the lifeguards at all these days. My own thoughts are that many of the young people that take on the lifeguard responsibility do not have the life experience to deal with such circumstances. They seem to think it will never happen on their shift. At most of the pools I have visited over the last few years the poolside staff spend a lot of time talking, walking away from the pools and looking half asleep. I would also like to know why the Ambulance staff had to resuscitate this little girl, why did the lifeguards not start to do so immediately. Bearing in mind that she should never have ended up in such a position in the first place. My thoughts and sympathies are with the parents of this little girl.  Anon, Essex  commented on 17-Jun-2008 12:43
  • having worked at the leisure centre for a number of years, but not now,i know that the parents are asked by reception what the the age thier child is and told that children under 8 must have an adult with them in the water. please do not put blame on the lifegaurds until the facts are known, it is not necessarily their fault and with the comments about the cleanliness of the pool, what has this got to do with the incident, it is a totally different matter.
    anon, west haddon,northants   commented on 17-Jun-2008 20:24
  •  I believe the cleanliness point has been brought up and is recurring in these comments to demonstrate the lack of care, willing staff / managers and funds in leisure conection run centre. The above is VERY relevant when we are talking about such a poorly run and staffed company, that can have such terrible, although not always anticipated, consequences. Emma, Kentcommented on 17-Jun-2008 21:32
Pool Not Busy? Young Swimmer First To MakeTerrible Discovery?  
  • I was at the pool with my grandson when this awful incident happened. There were people giving immediate resuss prior to the St Johns people appearing. I cannot understand how she was not spotted sooner as the pool was relatively empty that day and the deep end very quiet, therefore the guards should have had a good view of anyone in that area. I personally feel the guards at the pool are very young to have such a responsibility. I also have concerns about the bubble/jacuzzi area as this is only seperated from very deep water by a floating line of buoys. Easy for a child to slip in from the bubble pool to deep water. I take my grandson regularly and he never leaves my sight not even in the changing room when he is impatient to get to the pool. My other concern was the lengthy wait for the ambulance, over 15 minutes. It upset both of us terribly and he asked constantly if the little girl was going to be alright.   My heartfelt condolences to the parents. Its heartbreaking  Val, Tillingham   commented on 19-Jun-2008 14:25
  • My sympathy's go out to Michelles family. It was my daughter who alerted the lifeguards and she is going through a bad time too. It will take a long time to get over such an awful tradegy.   Sharon Ratcliffe, Maldon, Essex  commented on 18-Jun-2008 19:57
Further Comments on Lifeguards
  • i was there that day i was on the mat doing judo and so was michelle she just finished and went swimming after and she was not alone there was a few ppl and adults that was with her there wa sseveral events going on that day so they should of had more lifegards on duty and not standing around tlking
    james strong, isle of dogs   commented on 20-Jun-2008 12:00
  • Firstly,Our deepiest sympahties must go to the Parents and Relatives of the little girl.We as a family use the pool too! And yes, we too have complained about the cleanliness and the lifeguards? May i just say that it's the Mangements fault entirely for not monitoring the staff? They are young and therefore need supervision themselves.  This Complex needs a total refurb; and not just the pool??? sue, chelmsford  commented on 19-Jun-2008 20:24
  • My sincere sympathy to this angel's family. I took my two young children to this leisure centre a few weeks ago. I was astounded by the lack of supervision. The lifeguards are NOT doing their job properly, one spent the entire session chatting to two teenage girls. Maldon Council have to take some responsibility, as a council run facility they are failing to ensure the safety of patrons. It's just a pity it's taken a child's tragic death to highlight the inadequacies in Blackwater Leisure Centre. Rest in Peace little Angel.x.  Annie, Latchingdon  commented on 21-Jun-2008 07:13
  • My Sympathies go out to the family for the loss of their precious girl, As someone who worked there a long time age, people must stop blaming the lifeguards until they know all the facts, And the people to blame for the state off the facility, are in fact the council not leisure connection, as the only rent it, and have tried to get the place revamped for years!!!!!!!!!!!!!   ANON, ESSEX    commented on 23-Jun-2008 17:22  
What's Happening to Drowning Enquiry?

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
  • Please note, while I have no reason to disbelieve any of the above comments, they are uncorroborated and some people are not readily identifiable. PB

    From The Times 15.6.08 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4144506.ece   Lifeguards fail to save girl, 7, from drowning on fun day at crowded swimming pool 

By Marcus Leroux and Elizabeth Manzi 

A 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.

The girl’s family, from the Isle of Dogs in London, had gone to the “Fun for all” session at the leisure centre, where the pool opens its flume and there is a “jungle river ride”. Leaflets at the centre say that only competent swimmers over 4ft 9in should use the ride, which has whirlpools and a waterfall. It also advises that children under the age of eight should not go on the ride unless accompanied by an adult.

Last night it was unclear where in the swimming pool the girl’s body was found. A spokeswoman for Leisure Connections, which runs Blackwater Leisure Centre, said that an adequate number of lifeguards had been on duty. Two St John Ambulance officers, who had been in the centre for a judo competition, were called to the pool-side to attempt resuscitation, while junior cadets tried to comfort the girl’s family. The St John Ambulance Association said: “One of our ambulances was covering another event at the leisure centre when we were called to the swimming pool by staff who asked us for help.

“We rushed to the scene and tried to help. The lifeguard had already started resuscitating the young girl.”

Essex Police said last night it was handing over investigation of the girl’s death to Maldon Council’s environmental health department.

Graham Farrant, chief executive of Leisure Connection, said: “All our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and we will do anything we can to help investigate this tragic incident.”

On average, 15 people a year drown in swimming pools, most of them children. Peter Cornell, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “People don’t wave their arms or thrash about when they drown in pools or in fresh water. They just slip under and if it hasn’t been spotted by the lifeguard, it can be dangerous.”

From Newsquest 13.1.05    Reproduced in full   http://snipurl.com/hflq