Coroner flags importance of watching children at pools after 5-year-old who was left alone drowns
SINGAPORE: A coroner has reiterated the importance of paying attention to children at swimming pools, after a five-year-old girl who was left alone at a condominium pool drowned.
Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam ruled the girl's death a tragic misadventure on Monday (Oct 18) and said this was another stark reminder that children are "impulsive and unpredictable".
Especially in the case of a child at a pool, there must always be an attentive adult present to prevent such an unfortunate accident, she said.
The court heard that the girl returned home from kindergarten at about 6pm on Oct 8 last year.
She wanted to go to the pool and changed into her swimsuit.
Her mother testified that she had wanted to prepare dinner, but did not want to disappoint her daughter and took her to the pool at the ground floor of the condominium.
She stood at the side while her daughter played in the jacuzzi. The girl had a swimming board with her.
Shortly after, the mother needed the toilet and told her daughter she was going home, the court heard.
The mother testified she had seen an adult couple in the swimming pool next to the jacuzzi, and felt comfortable leaving her daughter alone as there were adults nearby.
When she arrived at her home, she decided to reheat soup for dinner, thinking it would not take long, the court heard.
CCTV FOOTAGE EVIDENCE
Closed-circuit television footage showed the girl's mother leaving the jacuzzi area at 6.10pm. One minute later, the couple left the pool.
At 6.14pm, the 1m-tall girl was seen running to the jacuzzi holding onto a blue swimming board. She was shown walking around the 1.2m-deep pool and trying to float on the board at the shallow edge of the water.
At 6.19pm, she was seen walking towards the back of the pool with her swimming board. A minute later, a small movement was seen in the water at the front of the pool.
Seconds later, a blue board was shown floating in the water, accompanied by more movements. At almost 6.21pm, the movements in the water subsided and stopped.
At 6.31pm, the girl's mother returned to the pool and realised her daughter was missing. She searched frantically but could not find her, and asked a security guard for help.
At 6.35pm, they found her body face-down at the bottom of the swimming pool.
The guard retrieved the girl's body and placed her on a sun bed, and a neighbour rushed over to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The girl was taken to hospital severely hypothermic and without a pulse. She was taken off life support three days later, after failing to show any signs of recovery of brainstem function.
An autopsy certified her cause of death as drowning.
SHE HAD GONE FOR THREE SWIMMING LESSONS
The girl's mother said she had taken her daughter to the children's water playground twice, going to the gym the second time while her daughter played with another child who was supervised by an adult.
Her daughter had gone for three swimming lessons, but the instructor testified that the girl was a complete beginner who could not swim or balance in water.
The girl had expressed interest in using her blue swimming board, but failed in her attempt. After this, her instructor told her not to use it until she was able to float confidently. He described her as a shy and reserved girl who would panic in the water when floating unassisted.
He testified that a child of her age would sink fast when struggling in water, as they tend to gulp a lot of water when panicking. They would not have the strength to break the water surface, and would eventually sink.
He stated his belief that the girl did not jump into the pool that day, but may have tried using the board and lost her balance.
The coroner found that it was likely the girl encountered difficulty when trying to float, or that she had slipped off while walking along the narrow ledge of the swimming pool.
"This incident is yet another stark reminder that children are impulsive and unpredictable," she said, adding that even the most compliant child is often given to curiosity, and that a young child lacks the maturity to understand the dangers present.
"In the case of a swimming pool, a child may not appreciate how swiftly she may be overcome if she should inadvertently fall into the deep waters. There must always be an attentive adult present to warn and prevent an unfortunate incident," said the coroner.
She conveyed her condolences to the family of the child.