David Lloyd leisure centre apologies to family of toddler, three, who drowned in a swimming pool and says ‘we simply did not do enough’ as firm pleads guilty to health and safety failings
- Rocco Wright, three, drowned at David Lloyd’s club in Moortown, Leeds in 2018
- His devastated father Steven Wright was first to spot him at bottom of the pool
- Firm has pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of a person
A leisure centre chain has apologised to the family of a toddler who drowned in one of its swimming pools, and pleaded guilty to health and safety failings.
Rocco Wright, three, was found at the bottom of the pool by his father Steven Wright at a David Lloyd Leisure centre at its club in Moortown, Leeds in April 2018.
An inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court into his death heard that the toddler had been in the pool for around five minutes before he was rescued. Nobody had seen him enter the water.
He was with his father and four-year-old sister at the poolside on the morning of April 21, 2018. After Mr Wright organised his daughter’s swimming lesson, he noticed Rocco was missing.
He then went searching for his son before spotting him at the bottom of the main pool, before he dived in to pull him out. Attempts were made to revive him before he was taken to Leeds General Infirmary. He died the following day.
The inquest heard the only lifeguard on duty on the day Mr Wright and his children visited the club was a 17-year-old with less than three months experience in the job. It also heard that it was not until Mr Wright jumped into the pool and called for help that the lifeguard was aware anything was wrong.
Rocco Wright, three, was found at the bottom of the pool by his father Steven Wright at a David Lloyd Leisure centre at its club in Moortown, Leeds in April 2018
The inquest also heard the visibility from the bottom of the pool, where Rocco was found, was an issue from where the lifeguard’s chair was positioned, and that a second lifeguard on duty would have ensures full visibility.
It returned an accidental death verdict in 2020, but Mr Wright said his son’s death ‘could and should have been prevented’.
In a statement after the inquest, Rocco’s family said: ‘We are extremely shocked to hear that David Lloyd chose to appoint only one Lifeguard to supervise their 25 metre pool on that Saturday morning, when it was known to them that a large number of young children would be swimming.
‘We were devastated to hear the facilities manager give testimony that lifeguard numbers had been cut at the pool due to what he stated was ‘staff optimisation’ in line with budget cuts, despite numerous lifeguards stating they had raised concerns about lifeguard numbers and general safety at the pool.
‘This, in our opinion, proves David Lloyd put profit before safety. We will never get over our loss and continue to grieve daily for the life Rocco never got to live.’
Leeds City Council said it believed the firm committed offences under the Health and Safety Act and sought prospection following the inquest.
On Thursday, the firm entered a guilty plea at Leeds Crown Court to a ‘serious’ health and safety breach at the club.
An inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court into his death heard that the toddler had been in the pool for around five minutes before he was rescued. PICTURED: Police vehicles at the David Lloyd gym on Tongue Lane, Moortown
READ MORE: Lifeguard on duty when toddler, 3, drowned in David Lloyd swimming pool was just 17 and had been in his first job for a matter of months before the tragedy
Prosecuting on behalf of Leeds City Council, Samuel Green KC said just one lifeguard was on duty that day. Guidelines set out by the Health & Safety Executive states that for a pool of that size – 25 metres – minimum of two lifeguards are required.
Mr Green said that despite staff raising concerns, they were told there were no funds for extra staff. One worker said he would get two 10 minute breaks in a full shift, the court heard.
Staff were also expected to undertake other duties while on lifeguard duty, such as cleaning the poolside and testing the water, and another employee disclosed that when they received breaks, unqualified employees would be tasked with lifeguard duties.
‘Failings of the company made a significant contribution, therefore in law, caused Rocco’s death’, Mr Green said.
The firm initially entered a not-guilty plea when the prosecution was first brought in November 2021, but the company has since pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of a person.
Representing David Lloyd Leisure Ltd, barrister Simon Antrobus KC, read out an apology from the company’s director in which he confessed: ‘We simply did not do enough.’
On Thursday, the firm entered a guilty plea at Leeds Crown Court (pictured) to a ‘serious’ health and safety breach at the club
He added: ‘Its breach was a significant cause of Rocco’s death. The company bears responsibility for the way its club performed.
‘But this is not a case they did not put in place a system or procedures. It’s a case of failure of implementation at club level.’
He also told the court that when lifeguards expressed concerns about working alone, steps were taken to add another member of staff.
‘Concerns were not being systematically ignored, criticisms can be made that they did not respond sufficiently’, he added.
Judge Simon Phillips KC said he would need time to consider the sentence, and adjourned the case until August 1.
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