Coroner’s concerns over safety at Norfolk beauty spot where two people drowned
A coroner has raised concerns over safety at a former quarry where two people died within hours of each other during last summer’s heatwave.
Ryan Pettengell, 41, and 16-year-old Umar Balogun drowned in separate incidents on a day of double tragedy at Bawsey Pits country park near King’s Lynn on July 16 last year.
At an inquest into Mr Pettengell’s death today, Norfolk senior coroner Jacqueline Lake said she would be preparing a report outlining her concerns to owners Sibelco UK, local authorities and the police.
The inquest heard how Mr Pettengell, of Railway Road, King’s Lynn, had been swimming at the pits with friends when police officers searching the area for Mr Balogun asked the group if they had seen him.
Mr Pettengell began to swim out to his girlfriend, Lauren Cole, who was on an island around 50 metres away and believed she had seen someone nearby, when he got into difficulty.
In a statement read to the court, she described how she had attempted to rescue him as he struggled in the water and sank beneath the surface.
The jury returned a conclusion that Mr Pettengell died as the result of an accident.
Swimming is banned at the pits, which are popular with cyclists, runners and dog walkers, and have been officially closed since last year.
During the inquest, questions were raised about missing ‘no swimming’ signage near the sandy area where Mr Pettengell drowned.
West Norfolk Borough Council has since worked with Sibelco UK to improve safety, the inquest heard.
This includes better maintenance of warning signs, new signs showing the most dangerous areas and displaying emergency contact details, and planting to prevent access to the water.
Victoria Hopps from West Norfolk Borough Council said: “The day after the incident people were still swimming in the water.
“I was there with a police officer telling people to get out and they were ignoring us.
“It’s a difficult site to police when people ignore the warnings even the day after this happened.”