East London swimming pool death girl died in accident

A seven-year-old girl who drowned in a swimming pool died as a result of an accident, an inquest jury has found.

Michelle Gellard, from the Isle of Dogs, was found motionless at the bottom of the deep end of the pool at Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon, Essex on June 14 2008.

In a statement read out after the verdict, her parents Mark Gellard and Sian Lakey, from Millwall, said they were “devastated and traumatised by the circumstances of her death”.

They added: “We hope as a result of this enquiry that lessons will have been learned and this unspeakable tragedy should never happen again.”

The Health and Safety Executive is still investigating the circumstances leading up to Michelle’s death.

Her family is also looking to bring a civil prosecution against Leisure Connection, the private firm which ran the pool.

Peter Todd, the family’s solicitor, said “It’s a fair verdict…They got a certain amount of reassurance from it.”

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But he added that the family still had concerns over the number of lifeguards on duty at the pool that day.

Michelle had just competed in a judo competition at the centre and went for a swim afterwards.

She was found by a lifeguard and another swimmer but staff were unable to resuscitate her.

Leisure Connection, which runs the centre, said in a statement after the verdict at Essex Record Office, Chelmsford: “Our sympathies remain with Michelle’s family in their tragic loss.

“The company acknowledges the thanks that were offered at the inquest, on behalf of Michelle Gellard’s family, to its duty manager and lifeguards for all that they did to attempt to save Michelle’s life.”

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