Accidental death recorded on boy, 16, who drowned at West Norfolk beauty spot

Bawsey pits outside ANL-140226-121350001
Bawsey pits outside ANL-140226-121350001
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A coroner has pleaded for people not to swim at a West Norfolk beauty spot where a teenager drowned almost two years ago.

The warning came at the end of a four-day inquest, in which the death of 16-year-old Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits was ruled to have been accidental, on Thursday afternoon.

A jury at the Norwich coroner’s court recorded a verdict that Umar’s death was an accident, caused by not implementing policies and procedures, a lack of training and experience and procedures not being adhered to prior to the trip and at the site.

However, coroner Jacqueline Lake said she would not be writing reports to the two companies concerned in his death, Sibelco, who owned the site, and Castlecare who ran the home where Umar was living, because of procedural changes made since the tragedy.

But she added: “I sincerely hope that following this tragedy, that members of the public seriously think before entering these lakes however attractive and benign they may seem, as they clearly are not benign.”

“I am satisfied that Sibelco has taken steps and continues to do what it can to warn people of the dangers of the lakes.”

During the inquest, jurors heard that risk assessments concluded Umar should only swim where lifeguards were present.

But the manager of the care home responsible for him at the time of his death failed to read the risk assessment before the trip to Bawsey on July 16, 2013, or check where he, another resident and two members of staff were going to.

She said that she would not have authorised the trip if she had done so.

The jury also heard that the two members of care home staff who accompanied Umar and another care home resident to the lakes were not fully qualified or experienced.

Vander Cawley had not passed her probation period with Castlecare and Kevin Roweth had not worked with children in care before he started at Castle Lodge just three weeks earlier.

Manager Lyana Sinclair-Russell started at the home on the same day as Mr Roweth, and was supposed to have a two-week induction with outgoing manager Michelle Batchelor.

But it only lasted three days as Ms Batchelor was called away to another care home.

Following the tragedy, Ofsted launched an investigation into the care home and on July 22 issued two compliance notices for breaching children’s home regulations, relating to lack of qualified staff and protecting children from risk during activities.

During a subsequent Ofsted monitoring visit, the home upheld the notices, but on August 30, Castle Lodge cancelled its registration with Ofsted and the home was closed down.

Castlecare also carried out its own investigation into the deaths, and Ms Cawley and Mr Roweth are still being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.