A swimmer died after three lifeguards failed to spot him in difficulties, leaving him submerged in the water for almost seven minutes.

Dominic Hopkins drowned while swimming at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Sportspark pool. 

He was given CPR and resuscitated at the scene before being taken to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital by air ambulance on January 27, 2022.

The 57-year-old, an accomplished violinist from Norwich, died the next day. 

Eastern Daily Press: Dominic Hopkins was a talented muscian

An inquest into his death this week heard evidence from the lifeguards who were on duty at the time, who said that glare on the water from the lights and the windows may have been an issue.

It was explained to the Norfolk Coroner’s Court, based at County Hall, in Norwich, that each lifeguard would occupy a chair, two fitted with nine underwater cameras each. 

Each lifeguard would rotate chairs every 20 minutes, with a break from monitoring the pool every 40 minutes. 

It was during a handover period at 2.55pm that they were alerted by another swimmer that Mr Hopkins was motionless on the pool floor. 

He had been swimming in the shallow end of the pool, which would have been "no deeper than 1.35m" at the time.

While the pool was emptied, the lifeguards retrieved Mr Hopkins from the water and started CPR. 

Eastern Daily Press: Sportspark swimming pool

Giving evidence, Peter Jefferson-Wall, who was employed as one of several ‘casual’ lifeguards at the time of the incident, said: “Glare is a major risk in all swimming pools. 

“As it was a long time ago, I cannot recall if there was glare. Going off the facts I am going to say there was glare as I did not see him.

“There were a fair few people in the pool, so the water was moving a lot. Glare aside, a lot of swimming going on in the water can affect visibility a lot.” 

He added that depending on the severity of the glare, the lifeguard on the camera-free chair could request permission from a manager to walk the poolside with a float if visibility was impaired. 

On this occasion, the court was told that the glare was not severe enough to warrant the implementation of this protocol. 

Oliver Hall, a UEA student who was also working as a ‘casual’ lifeguard at the time, added that sometimes there would be “pockets” of glare which did not cover large areas. 

Eastern Daily Press: Sportspark swimming pool

Other evidence set out a number of robust protocol measures put in place at the Sportspark, including mandatory monthly training in emergency procedures and an enforced training period.

Since Mr Hopkins death, a state-of-the-art system which uses artificial intelligence has been implemented, as well as additional film added to the windows to reduce glare. 

A statement from Mr Hopkins' family confirmed that he was epileptic and was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a disorder of the body's connective tissues. 

To help with this condition, Mr Hopkins would swim “almost daily” and would always wear either a bright pink or blue swim cap. 

A witness, who helped Mr Hopkins out of the pool, said she had seen him on the floor of the pool but initially assumed he had been undertaking breath-holding exercises. 

She alerted the lifeguards as soon as she realised Mr Hopkins was in difficulties. 

Friend Lucy Holdom, who attended the inquest, said: “It just seems quite difficult to know that he was right in front of [them] and not have been visible. So, I suppose the glare was there, but [they] were unaware of it.”

Mr Hopkins was a former leader of Norwich Philharmonic and had a long and accomplished musical career. 

Just a week before his death, he played in the orchestra pit at Norwich Theatre for the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society production of The Sound of Music. 

He also became a familiar face on Norwich’s busking scene during the 1980s when he performed with a classical music group on London Street. 

The inquest continues.