Northern Ireland

Rescuer feared Robinson Centre pool toddler death

The Robinson Centre
Image caption The Ambulance Service was called to the scene at the Robinson Centre

A parent who pulled a toddler from an east Belfast swimming pool at the weekend said he believed at one point that there was "no hope" for the child.

The man rescued the 13-month-old girl from the Robinson Centre pool before a combination of staff and members of the public resuscitated the child.

The man, who does not wish to be named, said the toddler's father was "beyond panic" during the incident.

Castlereagh Council has pledged an inquiry into what happened.

'She looked purple'

The man who first rescued the toddler described how there was a feeling of panic in the dry area as her father realised she was missing.

While her father checked the corridors, he went towards the pool area where he saw the child face down in the water.

He said: "I dragged the little child out of the pool, turned her upside down, put my fingers into her throat to dislodge her tongue and I could feel water passing by my fingers.

"She looked purple. There was a definite feeling of resignation in our faces. I definitely believed she had passed away."

He described how staff were alerted as they congregated at the other end of the pool with children arriving for a lesson at 10:30 BST.

There was a "palpable feeling of dread in the air", he added, as a member of staff took the child from him and brought her to a room where she was laid out flat.

"There were people there trying to resuscitate her. One person who seemed to be most proactive in that was a doctor whose little girl was there for lessons on the morning and he restored a lot of calm to the situation," he added.

'Beyond panic'

He said that members of staff were involved in attempts to revive the child but he gave most credit for the girl's treatment to the doctor and another man who came in and also identified himself as a physician.

"The dad was beyond panic. He was obviously very, very upset. I did believe there was no hope for the little girl.

"He was very panicked and I was trying to keep him calm as well but it was a dreadful situation."

The rescuer said he was "slightly more encouraged" when he saw the child vomit and that he had then gone to tickle her feet and she had responded.

"The last I saw of the little girl was one of the paramedics physically carrying her out in his arms."

The man said he had been in touch with the toddler's family over the weekend and that he understood she was doing well.

He said that following the incident, he wanted the Robinson Centre to demarcate the dry and the wet area of the swimming area more clearly and consider erecting a barrier to prevent children going between the two.

'Dedicated person'

He added that he had no issue with the instructors "who do a great job" but "there should be a dedicated person overseeing the safety of the pool.

"I am definitely of the belief that within a few more seconds, I don't think that little child could have been resuscitated."

Image caption Castlereagh Borough Council has moved to reassure the parents of children who use the pool

Heather Moore, director of leisure services with Castlereagh Borough Council, said an investigation was being carried out in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive.

She said that while she appreciated the distress that the resucuer had gone through, she had reviewed CCTV footage and there were a "few more facts which enlighten the situation".

Ms Moore said that concerns over a barrier would be addressed as part of a look at "the practicality of imposing restraints where reasonable to do so".

Parents should be assured, she added, that "extreme vigilance" was in place regarding managing lifeguard duties on any poolside.

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