A four-year-old boy tragically died in an inherently unsafe swimming pool at a rural Lake District holiday park, a court has heard.
Kind and loving Luca Hurle sadly drowned in a pool deeper than guidelines recommend, report lances live.
The little boy had been on holiday with his father Gavin Hurle, stepmother Donna Southcott, brothers Gabriel and Oliver and other family friends when the tragedy struck.
It was reported that the pool at the park also had inadequate safety signage – where measures “did not protect non-swimmers from entering deeper water”.
The four-year-old, from Newport in South Wales, was swimming with his father and the other children when he got into trouble.
The group soon found they could no longer see Luca outside of the pool.
He was found drowned on the bottom and taken to Furness General Hospital before being flown to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Tragically, Luca’s life could not be saved.
Two companies have been fined today over health and safety breaches in connection with the management of the swimming pool at Old Park Wood caravan park near Grange-over-Sands and a pool at another park owned by the same owner.
They were Holker Estates, the owners of the park, and Newmac Ltd, a company responsible for assessing and advising on health and safety matters.
Preston Crown Court heard that the pool was not only deeper than recommended, but had a dangerously steep slope running from the shallow to the deep end and had no non-slip bottom. Accusingly, Henry Lumley stated that there were no markings such as patterned tiles to emphasize the change in depth and a sign warning of a 1:8 grade was half the 1:4 reality.
Health and Safety Executive Guidelines for Swimming Pools, known as HSG179, recommend that pools with gradients steeper than 1:15 should have additional measures such as lifeguards, although this is not required by law.
A CCTV system was connected to screens in an office 350m away, but the system was not even active on the day of Lucas’ death. No monitors were on and CCTV hadn’t recorded for a week, meaning the family still don’t know the circumstances under which the boy got into trouble. A pool alarm was so quiet it was barely audible in the next building and not at all in the office.
Holker Estates was advised in an independent report by Andrew Green in 2012 to conduct external reviews of its risk assessment and protocols, which had not been updated for several years and showed a lack of leadership and guidance in health and safety management.
Its health and safety committee was called “dead” by Mr Green.
That year, Newmac, led by Andrew Newbold, bid for the contract and promised to address any issues raised in the Green Report. Regular meetings were held but no changes were made to the management of the pool and the previous risk assessments were maintained despite apparent errors.
The possibility of reducing the depth of the pool was mentioned in the correspondence, but Holker’s response was that a South Lakeland Council inspector had already stated that it was not necessary.
The inspector had indeed suggested changes would be made “if practicable” but a cost of over £150,000 to either widen the pool to reduce the gradient or fill it in to reduce the depth meant the change was not prioritized. The depth has been reduced since Lucas’ death.
In a personal statement from a victim, Luca’s mother, Amanda Collins, described the pain and heartbreak she has endured at the loss of her son.
Amanda said she often feels “like I don’t want to go on” and that she thinks of Luca late at night and as soon as she wakes up. The mother said she suffers from PTSD along with panic and anxiety attacks and memory loss, as well as flashbacks and night terrors.
She said in court: “The impact of losing Luca was more than catastrophic. Our everyday lives have been shattered by grief and the realization that we must face an unwanted and unknown future. Not only have I had to deal with my own grief, questions and questions about where the blame lies, but I’ve also had to deal with the Lucas brothers’ grief and the sadness in their eyes every day since the day of that life-changing incident.
“In the midst of my own emotional trauma, I needed to find the strength to help Lucas’ brothers to see that there is hope, even though I didn’t believe there was any hope myself, and to realize that they still have a life to live , and that none of this is her fault.”
Amanda added, “We have to live without his infectious laugh and gorgeous smile. He was such a happy, happy boy. We have to live without his hugs and kisses and I have to live without Luca telling me he loves me thirty times a day.
“We must live without him being with us on birthdays, Christmas and holidays. We have to live without seeing him grow up and live with the fact that I will never be a grandmother to his children. I have to live without his wonderful drawings that he brought home from school and worst of all I have to live without Luca.”
Luca’s father Gavin made a statement which was read by Mr Lumley. It said: “It’s impossible to put into words the impact of losing. As a family we have lost a son, grandson, brother, cousin, nephew and more.
“Luca was an energetic, loving and kind boy whose smile and laughter were contagious. You always knew when Luca was around by his jumping feet, his booming voice and his beaming smile. Our home is filled with silence now, long silences that used to be filled with laughter and giggles. We remember him every day and see him in our dreams and are left with a gaping hole in our hearts that is and will remain impossible to fill. We get up every morning and we live every day wishing Luca were here and we never quite understand why he isn’t here.
“My life has changed as a man. I will never see Luca grow into the amazing teenager, adult, parent and grandparent that I know he would have been. I find it difficult to give love when so much has been taken from me that my relationships with family and friends have suffered. I know I have to move on and I’m doing it for the family around me, but I’ll never be the man I was. The best of me was gone when I lost Luca and I’ll never get it back.”
Dominic Kay defended Holker, offered remorse to the family and said director Allen Gibb, who was in court, wrote a letter to the judge that he hoped would turn Lucas’ family over.
Mr Kay asked for credit for the early guilty plea, saying the company did everything required by the council inspectors and twice asked if it needed to reduce the depth of the pool and the second time received no reply.
Peter Smith defended Newmac and offered his condolences to the bereaved. He further argued that liability should be reduced as the company is not responsible for the day-to-day running of the pool, but this was dismissed by Judge Philip Parry.
The judge also struck down a suggestion that Mr Newbold could not have done more to persuade Holker to make further changes.
In sentencing, Judge Parry clarified that the conviction was based on health and safety deficiencies and not Luca’s death, adding that no monetary penalty could provide adequate compensation in this case. He explained that the fines were based on a number of factors, including each defendant’s guilt; the magnitude and likelihood of the exposed harm; and the size of the companies involved. That last point means that Holker’s annual turnover of around £5million means his sentencing policies differ significantly from those of ‘micro-company’ Newmac, which has around £120,000 a year.
He ordered Holker to pay a fine of £127,500 plus costs of around £27,000, making a total of £154,920.22. Newmac was ordered to pay a total of £16,000.
In a statement released to LancsLive after the sentencing, Amanda Collins said: “Today corrects the public perception that what happened to my son was an accident and recognizes the failure of the parties who had a legal and public obligation to protect him. This has been the darkest time of my life and yet my son’s light still shines brightly. I would like to thank the South Lakeland Borough Council and everyone else involved for their extraordinary work to achieve this outcome and for doing justice to Luca so much was close to my heart I do. My family and I want our privacy now.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mums-been-annihilated-grief-after-27323960 The mother was "annihilated by grief" after the son died in an unsafe swimming pool