Parents sue charity over daughters' drowning deaths

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Media captionParents sue charity over daughters' drownings

Parents of two charity workers who died whilst volunteering in South Africa are suing the charity organisers.

Summer Robertson, 21, and Alice Barnett, 19, drowned when they were pulled into a rip current during an unplanned trip to the beach in December 2014.

Their parents told Victoria Derbyshire the charity Lattitude's risk assessment had not been updated.

Lattitude said assessments have since been amended.

Image copyright Summer Robertson
Image caption Summer Robertson (left) and Alice Barnett (right) had been volunteering in South Africa for almost 10 weeks

An inquest found that although Lattitude had done a general risk assessment, they had not been more specific and were unaware of the rip current and the risk it could pose.

The deaths of Ms Robertson, from Shrewsbury, and Ms Barnett, from Canterbury, happened just days before they were due to return to the UK after the 10-week trip.

Their parents Sarah and John Robertson, and Suzie Barnett and Pete Gallagher said Lattitude never apologised for the deaths of the two women.

Image caption The parents spoke to Victoria Derbyshire

Mr Robertson said legal action is "the only route available to us to bring them to accept they they made mistakes".

"They've never apologised for anything. They will not accept responsibility," he added.

In a statement, Lattitude said volunteers will now be advised that they should only enter the water in life-guarded areas.

But Mr Robertson said: "As far as we're aware, those rules were already in place, that you did not use unsupervised beaches. However that's somewhere that they [Lattitude] took them."

Image caption Alice Barnett and Summer Robertson were at a beach about 100km east of Port Elizabeth

Ms Barnett's parents said the families never wanted to take legal action but have exhausted all other options.

Mr Gallagher said: "To go through all those stages and come out the other end with a company saying 'we don't think we did anything wrong, it was all in place', well it wasn't. The coroner's report said it wasn't, the independent report said it wasn't."

Lattitudes' chair of trustees, Dr Pat Upson, said "The loss of these two young lives was a terrible tragedy, and the grief suffered by their families must be unimaginable.

"We have been absolutely committed to ensuring that they have an accurate, full and proper understanding of all the circumstances surrounding this horribly sad situation.

"Since this is now the subject of a legal claim, we are unable to comment further."

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