Leeds pool death inquest hears there was no cut in lifeguard budget at David Lloyd club

A director of David Lloyd Leisure Clubs has denied at an inquest that there had been a cut in the lifeguard budget at the centre where a three-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 6:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 6:04 pm

An inquest jury in Wakefield has heard how Rocco Wright died after he was pulled from the water at the David Lloyd centre in Leeds on April 21, 2018.

The hearing has been told that there was only one 17-year-old lifeguard on duty at the time of the incident.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, David Lloyd Clubs operations director Stephen Brown was asked by counsel for the company, Simon Antrobus QC, about claims heard earlier in the inquest that the lifeguard budget had been cut at the Leeds pool between 2017 and 2018.

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Rocco Wright drowned in a leisure centre swimming pool in Leeds

Mr Brown said he was “surprised” to hear that comment as “in fact, the budget went significantly up”.

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He was asked by the jury whether David Lloyd had a policy of employing young life guards because they were cheaper.

Mr Brown said: “Absolutely not. We pride ourselves on being an above minimum wage employer. The right person for the job is the right person for the job.”

Mr Brown told the inquest that the pools across David Lloyds 100 UK centres were all different and so: “The decision making around the number of lifeguards can only be made on a local basis.”

He said: “They know it better than I or the centre know it.”

Mr Brown confirmed to the the jury that the company policy was that the maximum number of people in a pool that could be supervised by a single lifeguard was 50 people.

He stressed that this was a “ceiling” figure and said that he believed it was based on the maximum capacity of a large David Lloyd pool of 100.

Mr Brown agreed that this figure was set 18 to 20 years ago and confirmed it had not been reviewed since.

He said: “It's never been the source of any challenge by any external authorities. We have not had any complaints around that number of 50 before, and so it remains.”

Earlier this week, Rocco's father, Steven Wright, told the jury his son's death "could and should have been prevented".

Steven Wright described how his panic grew as he searched for his son, Rocco, at the David Lloyd centre in Moortown, Leeds, before he spotted him at the bottom of the main pool.

Giving evidence at an inquest in Wakefield on Monday, Mr Wright criticised the visibility life guards had at the poolside.

He said: "We believe Rocco's death could and should have been prevented.”

Mr Wright explained how he was with Rocco and his daughter at the poolside and was planning to take his son swimming as his daughter had her regular lesson.

He said he had just been told the lesson had been cancelled when he realised Rocco was no longer by his side.

Dc Gemma Smith, of West Yorkshire Police, told the jury the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with corporate manslaughter over the incident.

Dc Smith said no witnesses or CCTV footage could help officers determine how Rocco got into the pool.

Coroner Jonathan Leach told the jury to return on Monday when he will summarise the evidence.