A leading leisure centre in Hounslow has been handed a whopping fine after a five-year-old boy almost drowned in a swimming pool.
David Lloyd Clubs was fined over £350,000 for a series of failures which led to the incident at its Hounslow branch in Southall Lane, Heston , following a health and safety investigation by Hounslow Council .
The near tragedy in February 2013 saw five-year-old Blakeney Dear, formerly of Hounslow, "drowned/ asphyxiated" at a "kids holiday active" session.
It is believed he was underwater for around five minutes before being pulled out and given CPR by the club's lifeguard before paramedics arrived to take over.
Despite being a non-swimmer and staff being informed he could not swim, the boy was allowed to take part in half-term Aqua Splash sessions on February 19 and 20 without armbands, going against the club's rules for "poor" swimmers.
During the second day of the session, staff failed to support Blakeney in the water and he could not keep himself afloat with a floatation aid.
He was seen holding onto the poolside wall but eventually lost his ability to stay above the water and drifted away.
Minutes later he was found underwater by another child, who was told by a lifeguard to go over and tell Blakeney to stop "bobbing" up and down in the pool.
Eventually after the seriousness of the situation came to light he was pulled out from the water.
He spent two days in hospital under observation and fortunately sustained no lasting injuries.
David Lloyd, which notified the council's health and safety officers of the incident, went on to plead guilty, landing the company the biggest fine in any investigation brought by Hounslow Council.
The council's investigation on the incident found:
- Staff working on February 19, 2013, failed to act when they realised Blakeney could not swim and had no armbands
- No armbands were available at the club
- The (above) critical information was not passed to the family active co-ordinator
- On day two (February 20,2013), therefore, staff working were unaware of Blakeney's inability to swim
- However Blakeney told a member of staff that he could not swim but was still allowed to stay in the pool
- A team member asked non-swimmers including Blakeney to come to her to get a Woggle (floatation aid) but failed to supervise him for most of his time in the pool
- There was no physical support from a staff member in the pool or for use of a floatation aid
- Water level was 1.2 metres deep, higher than Blakeney's height
Councillor Sue Sampson, cabinet member for community protection at Hounslow Council, said: “This serious incident could have resulted in a fatality. Thankfully the child involved has suffered no lasting consequences.
“The council’s thorough investigation has shown that the activity was meant to be run in a structured way, but instead the children were allowed into the pool for 'free play' sessions.
“The situation could have been avoided if the club had ensured that staff given the role of running and supervising the swimming activity, and parents enrolling their children to take part, were made aware that children should either be competent swimmers or needed to wear armbands at all times."
David Lloyd was charged with failing at its Heston-based club on February 19 and 20 2013 to have taken all reasonably practicable measures for Blakeney’s safety while he was engaged in swimming sessions.
The company was fined £330,000, ordered to pay £22,131.75 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £120, totalling £352, 251.75.
David Lloyd Clubs said it "accepted full responsibility" for the incident which happened when the "company was under a different ownership".
It added it has reviewed its safety policies and team members involved are no longer employed with the company.
A spokeswoman said: "The safety and security of our members is our number one priority, and we would like to express our deepest and most sincere apologies to Blakeney and his family for the distress caused.
"It was an unacceptable breach of our child safety policies and we want to reassure everyone that we have taken stringent measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
"Following our investigation, we have extensively reviewed our safety policies to ensure the well-being of children in our clubs continues to be safe-guarded at all times.
"Those policies are embedded into the training that all team members working with children undergo, and we take firm and immediate action if any of the processes are not adhered to.
"We can confirm that the team members supervising the session are no longer with the business."
The Aqua Splash swim activity has also since been replaced by DL Kids Swim programme.
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