Firm fined in pool death tragedy

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A schoolboy died after being submerged for just 51 seconds in a pool that had no lifeguards and no-one able to give first aid, a court heard today (Thursday).

Aidan Sands, who could not swim, died aged six on June 18, 2011, during a trip to the leisure centre at the Red Lion Caravan Park in Arbroath.

The park’s operators, Loch Earn Caravan Parks Ltd, was today fined £234,000 over health and safety failings that led to the tragedy.

Forfar Sheriff Court heard how Aidan, of Dundee, his mother and three siblings had arrived at the park just three hours before the tragedy for a short break.

He had been playing in a toddler pool with his brother while his mother and two sisters swam in the 1.2m deep main pool.

Aidan - who was 1.16m tall - then made his way into the main pool with a tubular float, but lost grip of it and was submerged.

Speaking outside court, Aidan’s father said: “This has ripped our family apart.”

Fiscal depute Gavin Callaghan told how Aidan’s brother was the first to notice the unfolding events.

He said CCTV captured the boy going underwater for 51 seconds before he was pulled to the surface, dragged from the pool and had CPR performed on him by other swimmers.

The pool had no lifeguards and staff were not trained in CPR.

Aidan was rushed to hospital but died four days later from brain injuries caused by his near-drowning.

Mr Callaghan said: “As he held on to the pool edge the tube floated away from him.

“He reached out to grab it but missed, causing his head and body to go under water.

“This was not noticed by anyone else at the pool at that time.

“About 51 seconds later Aidan’s brother became aware that he was under the water and pulled his head above the surface.”

He added: “Had the lifeguarding provision been in place on the date of the incident intervention would have taken place before the tragic consequences were allowed to develop.

“The provision of lifeguards would have reduced the likelihood of the incident occurring and the failure to have lifeguards in place is therefore a significant causal factor in the resultant death.”

Loch Earn Caravan Parks Ltd, based in Errol, Perthshire, pleaded guilty on indictment to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act committed between July 1, 2007, and June 18, 2011, at the Seafront Leisure Centre, Red Lion Caravan Park, Dundee Road, Arbroath.

They admitted failing to carry out a suitable risk assessment, failing to ensure safety of all people using the pool, failing to ensure adequate supervision and failing to provide sufficient information and training to employees.

Defence advocate Barry Smith said: “I am expressly instructed to tender on behalf of the company and all those associated with it the sincere condolences of that company and those people to the family of Aidan Sands.”

Sheriff Jack Brown imposed a fine of £234,000, reduced from £350,000 for the guilty plea.

He said: “The absence of lifeguards and a risk assessment continued of a period of some years and it may be that the absence of any other incident led to a false sense of security.

“A significant fine must be imposed.

“It goes without saying that no financial penalty will ever reflect the loss suffered by Aidan’s family.”

Speaking outside court Aidan’s dad Kevin said: “I’m glad the matter has been decided and the owners have accepted responsibility.

“The sheriff has imposed a significant fine.

“It has ripped our family apart - not just my side but both sides of the family.”

Aidan’s mother, Mandy, died aged 36, around two years after the tragedy.

Members of her family released a statement through their solicitors.

Brian Castle, of Digby Brown solicitors in Dundee, said: “It is close to five years since the tragic events which led to Aidan’s death.

“Since that day his family have sought answers to the many questions they have about what happened.

“It has been a long and difficult road.

“They have had little access to information while the possibility of criminal proceedings remained open.

“This guilty plea is a belated one but it does provide some considerable comfort to the family to learn that the caravan park operator is now accepting responsibility for Aidan’s death.

“The family are hopeful of resolving the ongoing civil legal proceedings arising from the tragedy soon before trying to move on with their lives.”