Inquest into Millwall schoolgirl pool drowning starts

An inquest into the drowning of a seven-year-old girl in a public swimming pool is to take place almost three years after her death.

On June 14 2008 Michelle Gellard from Millwall was found floating face down under the water of the pool at the Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon, Essex.

Before going swimming Michelle had been competing in a judo competition at the centre.

The schoolgirl’s mother Sian Lakey stayed in the main hall and only agreed to the swim after one of the other parents, Ms Zoeteman offered to supervise.

Michelle went missing and was found immersed in the deep end of the pool by another swimmer.

In May last year another young girl almost drowned at the pool, which is owned by Maldon District Council and managed by private firm Leisure Connection Ltd.

After this incident, an enforcement notice was served against the pool by the Health and Safety Executive.

Most Read

The Gellard family has launched a civil claim for negligence against Leisure Connection Ltd which will begin after the inquest’s conclusion.

The hearing has been delayed because the family challenged the decision that the investigation should be led by Maldon District Council, arguing it couldn’t be fair.

In 2009 it was agreed the Health and Safety Executive would take over the investigation.

After the accident a crew from St John’s Ambulance tried to resuscitate Michelle.

Confusion at the pool caused wrong information to be passed on in a 999 call, leading to a delay in Michelle’s treatment.

Michelle’s father Mark Gellard described her as the family’s “pride and joy” and added: “My partner and I are still grieving for our daughter.

“We don’t want this to happen to another child. It the most heartbreaking thing to go though and we hope that lessons are learnt from this.”

Peter Todd, the family’s solicitor, said: “This case potentially has significant implications for all those involved in lifeguarding or managing a swimming pool, and for parents of children using a pool.”

The nine day hearing starts today at the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford.