Docklands family pays tribute to tragic swim pool victim

THE family of Michelle Gellard, the seven-year-old from East London who died in a tragic drowning accident at a leisure centre at the weekend, paid tribute this week to their cheeky little madam with attitude’ who was loved by everyone. Her parents described their daughter as 'a precious and wonderful little girl' who made everyone laugh. A full investigation is now under way by police, Heath & Safety Executive and the local authority in Essex where the accident happened on Saturday

By Julia Gregory

THE family of Michelle Gellard, the seven-year-old from East London who died in a tragic drowning accident at a leisure centre at the weekend, paid tribute this week to their cheeky little madam with attitude’ who was loved by everyone.

Her parents described their daughter as “a precious and wonderful little girl” who made everyone laugh.

A full investigation is now under way by police, Heath and Safety Executive and the local authority in Essex where the accident happened on Saturday (June 14).


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A lifeguard and a St John Ambulance crew who were attending a judo contest at the centre treated her at the poolside after she was pulled out of the water.

She was rushed by Essex air ambulance to Colchester General Hospital where doctors continued the battle to save her. But she was pronounced dead later that day.

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The leisure centre was closed after the accident and floral tributes were placed at the door.

Michelle, a keen member of the Docklands Dragons judo club on the Isle of Dogs in East London where she lived, had won a silver medal in a judo contest at the Blackwater centre that day.

She went for a swim afterwards, but was then found floating face down under the water.

Michelle’s parents, Mark Gellard and Sian Lakey, who were in mourning this week at their home in Seyssel-street in Millwall, Isle of Dogs, said in a statement: “Michelle was extremely well liked by everyone she came into contact with.

“She was a cheeky little madam with attitude who could make anyone laugh, but was also a loving, helpful and confident little girl.”

Michelle loved her Judo and had been a member of the Docklands Dragons club since she was six.

A friend of the family, Amanda Devine, also paid her tribute: “Michelle was a cheeky little so and so’ and I mean that in the nicest possible way.”

Assemblies have been held at Millwall’s Harbinger Primary school where Michelle was a pupil.

Some of the children have been offered counselling to help cope the loss of a popular playmate.

The school in Cahir-street also lit candles and opened a tribute book for staff, parents and children to pay their respects.

Michelle had been a member of the Docklands Dragons judo club for a year and was always thinking up ways to make money for the club.

Her mother has asked that any donations should go to the club.

The club’s Fred Turner described Michelle as “a live wire who always on the go.” He introduced her at the prize-giving ceremony as “Michelle Attitude’ Gellard.”

A post mortem on Tuesday put Michelle’s death as immersion.

Maldon District Council which owns the leisure centre is undertaking a full investigation with police and the Health and Safety Executive. The contractors running the centre, Leisure Connection, said there were adequate lifeguards at the time of the accident.

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