A coroner is to write to the Government with a number of recommendations after an inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure on an eight-year-old boy who drowned in a public swimming pool.
Kaimen Ward, who was described as a non-swimmer, got into difficulties while playing with a group of teenagers at Hambleton Leisure Centre, in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, in August last year.
The inquest at Northallerton Town Hall heard accusations that some of the teenagers had been drinking.
Coroner Michael Oakley said he would write to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Hambleton District Council with his recommendations.
He said: “It’s clear to me from the evidence that whilst the pool was being run entirely within the current guidelines, sometimes it takes a tragedy like this for people to look again at procedures and guidelines to see if they can be improved.”
The jury was told Abigail Lawson, Jade Green and Andrew I’Anson went swimming with Kaimen as his mother Caroline, described in court as a depressive alcoholic, was afraid of water after nearly drowning as a child.
The teenagers, all aged 15 and 16 at the time of the tragedy, also went swimming with Kaimen’s twin sister Hope-Ella and 11-year-old Michael Ward, who is not related to the victim.
The inquest heard the group was told off by pool-side staff for going down a slide in a group and for being rowdy and splashing about.
At one point, the teenagers were asked if they had been drinking and staff smelt their breath.
Giving evidence, the teenagers denied they had been drinking, but Jade Green said she and Abigail had a glass of Lambrini white wine before they set off to the swimming pool.
Sarah Dodsworth, who was swimming with a friend on the day of the tragedy but who was not connected to the group, said she thought Abigail had been drinking.
She said: “I think she had been drinking. She couldn’t stand straight and she was shouting all the time. She was a bit wobbly.
“I asked her if she had been drinking and she said ‘yeah’.”
Abigail denied the accusation.
Mr Oakley described the teenage girls as “lax and irresponsible”.
His recommendations include anyone suspected of drinking before entering the pool should be barred.
He said he would also make recommendations about the number of lifeguards on duty, suggesting one or more extra lifeguards should be on duty at pools like Hambleton which has a different layout to other facilities.
He also recommended blinds on pool-side windows to prevent glare on the water.
The court was told Kaimen became separated from the group and was probably under the water for several minutes before he was spotted and plucked out of the pool. He died, despite efforts to revive him, the inquest was told.
Andrew I’Anson said he first spotted an object under the water while he was about to come down a slide.
He said he walked from the slide with Michael Ward towards a waterfall where they had been playing and both of them got in the water.
“We both got in and because I wasn’t wearing goggles, Michael grabbed his arm and I pulled him to the top. His face and lips were blue.”
Abigail told the court she was standing in a circle near the waterfall when she saw somebody under the water, and thought it was a swimmer trying to hold his breath.
The court was told four lifeguards were on duty at the time.
Jade told the inquest she thought the boys in the group stayed together and she was not sure if Kaimen was at the slide.
At one point she was approached by a lifeguard.
“They had some complaints about some noise and wanted to know if we had been drinking,” she said.