Bathers hospitalised by pool’s chemical cocktail
STEPHEN PULLINGER A manager at a Norfolk leisure park ordered the mixing of a lethal cocktail of chemicals to get rid of troublesome pigeons - but it created a choking cloud of chlorine gas that left several people in hospital, a court heard yesterday.
A manager at a Norfolk leisure park ordered the mixing of a lethal cocktail of chemicals to get rid of troublesome pigeons - but it created a choking cloud of chlorine gas that left several people in hospital, a court heard yesterday.
On the instructions of pool manager Peter Kinnard, a lifeguard mixed together two pool chemicals, sodium hypochlorite and sodium biosulphate, in an attempt to gas out the birds which were roosting in a flume tower.
But instead a cloud of chlorine enveloped bathers, including a number of children, in the pool at Yarmouth's Seashore Holiday Park.
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A hurried evacuation had to be carried out with more than 20 holidaymakers experiencing stinging eyes and throats and finding it hard to breathe.
Many later needed treatment at Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital.
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Kinnard, 28, of Tenby, Wales, admitted two charges of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and others, and of not paying heed to the proper control of a hazardous substance.
Fining him a total of £1,665 with £210 costs, Mike Ross, chairman of the bench at Yarmouth magistrates, said although his actions in May had been reckless rather than intentional, he had put the public at “very serious risk”.
Isha Prince, prosecuting for Yarmouth Borough Council, said Kinnard first carried out the experiment himself and succeeded in forcing the birds out. But when he ordered his deputy to organise a repeat the following day when he was off duty it all went disastrously wrong.
She said the park owner Bourne Leisure had proper training and regulations in place - including notices in the plant room warning about the dangers of mixing chemicals - and that was why it was not facing health and safety charges itself.
Laura Thomas-Islami, mitigating, said they accepted it had been a serious incident but no one was seriously injured and everyone taken to hospital was quickly discharged after treatment.
She said Kinnard had been coming under increasing pressure from the park's general manager to solve the bird problem as their droppings were creating a hazard and dead chicks were being found at the top of the tower.
When he carried out the first chlorine gas release at the top of the tower he was wearing protective clothing and had given thought to safety issues such as ventilation.
He had been off duty the following day and asked his deputy Chris King to organise a repeat, but unbeknown to him he had a bird phobia and asked a lifeguard to do it.
The chemicals had quickly created a cloud of gas and a hole in the wall between the plant room and the room where the air handling equipment was situated allowed it to be released into the pool area.
Ms Thomas-Islami stressed that Kinnard had been concerned by the hole and had been actively pressuring the pool supply firm to fix it.
She said with hindsight he now understood that asking the chemicals to be mixed had been “a moment of madness”.
Kinnard had since been dismissed from his job and was now earning a fraction of his former salary as a trainee mechanic.
Following the case, Kate Watts, commercial team manager for environmental health said: “I am pleased with the outcome of this sentence. This incident showed a blatant disregard for not following simple health and safety procedures, which in turn, resulted in causing significant ill health and panic to a large number of bathers.
“I feel that it was extremely fortunate that no fatalities occurred on this day. This case shows the need for people at work to take a common sense approach to their own health and safety and that of those around them.”