Teenager's death an accident, coroner rules
THE death of 15-year-old Kajil Devi, who drowned in a Cotswold lake while playing with her two young cousins, was an accident, a coroner has ruled.
Despite the verdict, the family of Kajil Devi, who could not swim, say they may bring a private prosecution against the Cotswold Water Park.
The four-day inquest at Gloucester heard that Kajil and her cousins were playing with an inflatable dinghy on one of the Water Park lakes.
When the boat started to drift away with a young cousin in it Kajil tried to reach the rope to pull it back but slipped into the water and disappeared.
The inquest heard that Kajil, who lived with her family in South Road, Feltham, Middx, could not be resuscitated when she was pulled from the water on August 11 2010.
She had been missing for about 20 minutes, but there was confusion as to whether she was still in the water, or whether she had gone onto the beach to go to the toilet.
She was found under the water by a swimmer but was pronounced dead in hospital the following day.
The inquest heard criticism of the lake’s management and organisation and that only two inexperienced lifeguards had been on duty at the beach at the time.
But the assistant deputy Gloucester coroner Tom Osbourne said Kajil had probably just slipped under the water when she got out of her depth and even if more lifeguards had been on duty, it was unlikely that she would have been seen.
Head of leisure safety for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Peter Cornall, told the inquest earlier today that under health and safety legislation, operators of such leisure centres were required to carry out proper risk assessments.
But he told the inquest heard that the risk assessment at the park had been carried out by someone with no knowledge of how to do so.
He said it seemed likely that Kajil had slipped under the water unnoticed, and the number of lifeguards on duty would not have made any difference.
"If no-one saw her there is very little anyone can do," he said. "In fresh water people can sink very quickly."
The family was told at the time that if a person had gone under the water they would float, but Mr Cornall said that was not so in fresh water.
"She would only have been rescued if she had been prevented from going under the water," he said.
"Once an unobserved person has slipped under the surface it is very rare for even an experienced lifeguard to be able to revive them."
Summing up, Mr Osbourne said Kajil and her two younger cousins could not swim and were not wearing buoyancy aids when they played with an inflatable boat in the water.
When their older cousin Akshay went to get something to eat, he told them to stay near the beach in shallow water until he got back but they started playing a game, pushing a nine-year-old out in the boat, and when he threw a rope, pulling him back in again.
"I think they got into deeper water and when Kajil slipped under, her cousin tried to grab her," said the coroner.
"She then looked back towards the boat, and when she looked round, she thought Kajil had gone to the beach.
"It would not have occurred to a nine-year-old that she was still under the water.
"The first aid kit available was limited and there was no heart defibrillator available, but these would not have affected the outcome."
He said criticism of the park management, the allegation of insufficient lifeguards, that there was lack of leadership of the lifeguard team and that no proper risk assessment had been carried out, made no difference to the outcome.
"The chance of saving Kajil was dependent on her being spotted when she slipped under the water and being rescued within a few minutes.
"Even if there had been four or five lifeguards they could still have missed her on such a crowded day.
"Following that immersion she was already brain dead when she was pulled from the water."
After the inquest Mr Cornall agreed "On this occasion, the fact that the park was very badly run did not affect the outcome. On another occasion, it would have done."
Kajil’s oldest brother Sumit, speaking on behalf of her family, said maybe it was an accident, but if there had been more lifeguards it would have been more likely that she would have been spotted.
"There were only two inexperienced lifeguards managing about 200 people on the beach and in the water," he said.
"Something was bound to happen and we may take out a private prosecution. But this has been very hard on my mum and dad and we will also have to consider them."
Press and media officer for Cotswold District Council Bob McNally said: "This was a terrible tragedy and, as the Health and Safety regulating authority, the Council will now consider the issues and evidence that emerged at the inquest.
"Any enforcement action could only be considered once the Council’s current investigation has been completed and proper consideration given to the evidence as a whole."