David Lloyd fined £3m over toddler who drowned in swimming pool

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Rocco Wright died after a swimming pool tragedy at a David Lloyd gym in Leeds (Image: PA)
Rocco Wright died after a swimming pool tragedy at a David Lloyd gym in Leeds (Image: PA)

David Lloyd Leisure has been ordered to pay £3million over the death of a little boy who drowned in a health centre swimming pool.

Three-year-old Rocco Wright died in April 2018 after getting into difficulty in the indoor pool at the leisure club's branch in Leeds. The toddler had been with his sister and dad Steven Wright, who frantically dived into the pool after noticing he was unresponsive.

The family had been at the club on the morning of Saturday, April 21, while Rocco's four-year-old sister had a routine swimming lesson. The court heard Mr Wright and other parents were waiting for an instructor to become available when he noticed Rocco was "nowhere to be seen".

The youngster was found face down in the pool with Mr Wright and trained medics who happened to be at the gym at the time tried to resuscitate him. Tragically, the toddler couldn't be revived.

David Lloyd fined £3m over toddler who drowned in swimming pool eideziqkeiqhhinvRocco's family said the youngster had an 'infectious laugh" which 'lit up the room' (PA)

Rocco's family said the five year fight for justice "prolonged our misery" as the firm was sentenced on Tuesday. His Honour Judge Phillips KC said: "Knowing he was unable to swim and was fearful of water, [Mr Wright] thought he would be hiding somewhere. Not seeing him in the pool area, he went to a corridor and returned, looking in hiding places as panic started to set in."

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The court heard the lifeguard - who was qualified and had been working at the club for around nine months - was the sole lifeguard on duty at the time. Staff had previously raised concerns about the number of lifeguards working at any one time, with no response.

He also said that at the time of the tragedy, that period of the day was not regarded as a 'peak time', while on duty lifeguards were not given proper breaks and were expected to carry out other duties such as testing the water. The glare from the sun also obstructed full views of the pool for the lifeguard, it was heard.

David Lloyd admitted liability at Leeds Crown court last month before being sentenced on Tuesday, Leeds Live reports. The fitness firm pleaded guilty to a serious health and safety breach, and was fined £2,550,000 and ordered to pay costs of £258,355.80.

David Lloyd fined £3m over toddler who drowned in swimming poolPolice at the scene of the tragic incident in April 2018 (Huddersfield Examiner/MEN Media)

The club, Judge Phillips said, admitted to failing to put in a bespoke assessment to tailor to the specific needs of the Leeds pool. While often having two lifeguards on duty, the club also said only one had been one on that day.

Following the sentencing, Rocco's family said: “Our family continues to be devastated by the tragic loss of our son, Rocco Wright. Rocco had an infectious laugh and a smile which lit up the room. He was loved and adored by all his family. He had his whole life ahead of him, and we dearly miss our little ‘buddy’ every day.

"Whilst David Lloyd have now finally filed a plea of guilty, accepting that it was their failings that led to Rocco’s death, we, as a family are extremely disappointed that this has taken over five years. David Lloyd have had numerous opportunities to submit an early plea but waited until what was less than two weeks prior to a lengthy trial. This unnecessary delay has caused increased anxiety and prolonged misery and sadness across our entire family.

"In the months before Rocco’s death, David Lloyd had been significantly fined for health and safety failings after a boy nearly drowned at one of their leisure centres. Tragically, lessons were not learnt by the previous event and we can only hope that David Lloyd have now implemented safe systems and necessary measures to ensure no family has to endure the immeasurable trauma and heartache that our family has had to, and continues to live with.

"No family should have to endure the loss of a child through drowning, particularly in a supervised, private and exclusive leisure centre.”

Russell Barnes, CEO of David Lloyd Leisure said: “Today is another difficult day for Rocco’s family and our thoughts are with them. We are sorry for their loss and wish to share our sympathy with Rocco’s family and loved ones.”

Susie Beever

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