Girl, 12, ‘drowned’ in the bathtub

Gabrielle Smith. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Gabrielle Smith. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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A TRAUMATISED mother tried to batter down the bathroom door to save her daughter from drowning in the bath, an inquest has heard.

Frantic Faye Smith, 47, broke down the door in a matter of seconds after her 12-year-old daughter Gabrielle failed to respond to her knocks and calls.

Tragically Ms Smith did not reach her in time and the youngster died.

An inquest at Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard how Gabrielle, known as Gabi to her friends, had suffered from a violent seizure the previous year.

After being referred to doctors she was diagnosed with non-epileptic attack disorder - a condition which causes seizures and which, on occasion, can lead to blacking out and collapsing.

Despite Gabi’s condition, Ms Smith said was told there was absolutely no reason why her daughter could not live independently and do things by herself, such as take a bath and cross roads.

The mother told the inquest that on the night before the tragedy, Gabi’s best friend Rebecca had been at their house in Eccleshill, Sheffield, for a sleep over.

The evening passed without incident and, on the fateful morning of March 16 last year, it would be Rebecca who would raise the alarm.

That morning Gabi had decided to take a bath before meeting with another friend later in the day.

Ms Smith, who also has a son Zach, 16, said: “I was sitting with my son and having a cup of tea, then Rebecca knocked on my door and said: ‘Faye, Gabi has been in the bathroom for ages’.

“Zach and I looked at each other.

“I jumped off the bed and ran into the corridor.

“I was shouting through the bathroom door: ‘Gabi, talk to me, I’m worried about you. I’m breaking this door down if you don’t talk to me’.”

Upon receiving no response she decided to force the door.

“I took several steps back and I kicked the door down in seconds,” she said.

The Notre Dame student is believed to have fallen unconscious and slipped below the water’s surface. Ms Smith attempted resuscitation, while called Zach called for an ambulance.

Ms Smith, a well-known communications consultant in the city of Sheffield, said Gabi’s moods had suffered following the death of her father three years ago in May.

“She had said on several occasions she wanted to be with her dad again,” said Faye.

“But I explained that meant that she would be dead too, and I said she was very much loved and adored, and if she died that would be two tragedies.

“But on that weekend she was bright and cheerful.

“What Gabi loved was having her friends around her, especially her best friend.”

Assistant Coroner Louise Slater recorded a narrative verdict that Gabi died as a result of drowning.

The family were well-known at the St Thomas Philadelphia and All Saints Church, which Ms Smith praised in the wake of tragedy as having “surrounded us with love and care and kept vigil with us”.

Following her death the St Thomas Philadelphia Church leader Nick Allan said: “We will miss Gabi’s beautiful face and sensitive demeanour, her friendship and her faith while her headteacher Jane Willis described Gabi as “a valued and loved member of our school community, a lively and friendly academically-bright student who was a true all-rounder”.

A tribute wall was created for people to leave their thoughts at the school.

Speaking at the time of her daughter’s death Ms Smith described Gabrielle as “the light of our lives, beautiful inside and out. She was a bright, cheerful, vivacious, fun-loving girl who loved shopping, adventures, swimming and spending time with her friends and family.

We believe she has been reunited in heaven with her father and her heavenly father, and that Gabi will be enjoying the eternal party she loved here on earth so much.”

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