The group of schoolchildren which included the boy who was found at the bottom of Stonehaven Outdoor Pool were not expected at the pool on the day that the eleven-year-old was pulled unconscious from the water.
Speaking at the Stonehaven and District Community Council meeting this week Aberdeenshire Council’s head of lifelong leisure, John Harding, explained that the school party visiting the pool on Thursday June 28 had not previously booked in with the pool but he emphasised that it is not necessary to book in large parties and that the pool staff were capable of dealing with groups which turn up unexpectedly and had there not been enough staff they would have been turned away.
John Harding and Sports and Leisure manager, Tim Stephen, attended the meeting to answer Community Councillors’ questions and concerns over the incident which resulted in the pool being closed for 12 days during the Summer.
Community Councillor David Fleming called on the officials to tell the public what actually happened on the day. He said: “I think this is one of the most atrocious pieces of handling I have seen for some time. There was a tragic incident but as far as I know nobody has died as a result of it.”
He explained that everyone in the town wanted to know what had happened that day. He said: “Aberdeenshire Council is doing itself no favours and it is doing this town as a tourist resort no favours.”
He then asked the council representatives at the meeting to say what exactly happened and how the boy ended up at the bottom of the pool.
John Harding said: “The family of the boy concerned wanted to exercise their right to keep the circumstances private and the local authority had no information to share. For the first week we had a young boy in intensive care and it could have been fatal. For that first week we could have been looking at a fatal accident inquiry.” He explained that Aberdeenshire Council had shared all of the information that they could and that until the Health and Safety executive release their report there is nothing more they can say.
Community Councillors then asked why it took twelve days for the pool to then re-open. Some compared the incident to others over the summer where fatal accidents happened and the attractions re-opened the next day.
Mr Harding said: “I cannot explain why other places open quicker, I know my team worked into evenings and weekends after the incident and it was one of the most serious incidents to happen in sports and leisure for decades.”
He explained that they worked as quickly as they could in ensuring that the pool was as safe as possible so that it re-open. He told Community Councillors that to begin with the pool was in the hands of Grampian Police as they carried out a thorough investigation to discover if criminal proceedings were needed as a result of the incident. The Grampian Police investigation is now complete.
John Harding praised the work of staff and Friends of the pool on the day, saying that they had been a great help during and after the incident.
Local Councillor, Raymond Christie also praised the staff’s efforts on the day. He said: “I would like to put in a word for the lifeguards. If it wasn’t for them fishing that boy out and doing CPR this could have had a different outcome. They saved a life that day.”