Coroner slams signs banning swimming in Shadwell Basin after student drowns

PUBLISHED: 17:04 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 03 January 2020

Shadwell Basin dock. Picture: Google

Shadwell Basin dock. Picture: Google


A coroner has criticised safety signs warning of the dangers of swimming in a disused dock after a man drowned.

Mayor John Biggs launching an appeal to people not to risk swimming in Shadwell Basin. Picture source: LBTHMayor John Biggs launching an appeal to people not to risk swimming in Shadwell Basin. Picture source: LBTH

Student Jonathan Adebanjo got into the water for a swim at Shadwell Basin in Wapping during last July's heatwave.

Minutes later, the 23-year old sank below the surface and drowned. His body was discovered a day after he disappeared on July 23. It was the first time he had been to the area.

On November 20, assistant coroner, Edwin Buckett, concluded in an inquest at Poplar Coroner's Court that Jonathan "drowned as a result of an accident while swimming".

Mr Buckett has now shared his concerns about signs surrounding Shadwell Basin in a prevention of future deaths report sent to Will Tuckley, chief executive at Tower Hamlets Council, which is responsible for the area.

Sunbathers at Shadwell Basin in 2018. Picture: John BiggsSunbathers at Shadwell Basin in 2018. Picture: John Biggs

"The fixed signs which indicate swimming is prohibited are fairly small and can be missed if the area is busy," Mr Buckett warned.

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"The water in Shadwell Basin is murky with poor visibility underwater with rubbish and discarded items below the surface," he wrote.

He added that there is an undercurrent at the basin and the area where Jonathan swam is not covered by CCTV.

He called for signs banning swimming to be larger, more obvious and show why swimming at the old dock is dangerous.

This is not the first tragedy at Shadwell Basin. A woman in her 40s drowned there in 2018 and the body of 28-year old Mindaugas Vilutis was pulled from the water after he went in for a swim in 2010.

In July 2018, Tower Hamlets mayor, John Biggs, launched a public appeal urging people not to risk swimming in the dock.

A Tower Hamlets council spokesman said: "We are deeply saddened that this tragic incident occurred and our thoughts and condolences are with Jonathan Adebanjo's family and friends. We will look at the recommendations of the inquest.

"For many years, the council has taken many steps to make Shadwell Basin safer. This has included mounting numerous visible signs around the basin warning the public against swimming in the basin. Fences were also installed around the edge of the basin.

"More recently, and in light of the area becoming a meeting point for many during periods of hot weather, we stepped up patrols by Tower Hamlets enforcement officers in the area and issued several social media and digital communications warning against swimming in the basin during these periods."

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