Leisure centre fined after child drowns

Leisure centre fined after child drowns 25452

A London leisure centre has been fined after a young girl drowned in its swimming pool.

Michelle Gellard, 7, went swimming after attending a judo competition in the area, but something went wrong.

Despite the attendance of three lifeguards at the side of the pool, it was not noticed the girl was unconscious at the bottom of the pool for some time.

After a member of the public alerted one of the staff that Miss Gellard was not moving, a worker at the Blackwater Leisure Centre jumped into the water and retrieved the youngster's body.

Despite attempts to resuscitate the seven-year-old she was pronounced dead at Colchester General Hospital.

A subsequent Health and Safety Executive investigation concluded managers at the leisure centre failed to ensure there were enough, well positioned lifeguards at the poolside at all times.

Chelmsford Crown Court also heard procedures at the site were not up to the correct standard and this contributed to seven-year-old's fatal accident.

Leisure Connection, the company operating Blackwater Leisure Centre, 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 lifeguards in the right places so as to operate the pool safely."

Ms Drury added evidence had emerged Blackwater had failed to make sure enough staff were near the side of the water, even though it knew more was required. This contributed heavily to Miss Gellard's death.

While pools can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers, most people enjoy using lido or bath facilities and operators must be careful to balance the needs of health and safety while avoiding restricting beneficial activities.

Posted by Chris Stevenson