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Tragic last moments of teenager who drowned at Bawsey Pits heard by inquest

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 17 June 2015

Bawsey Pits. Picture: Ian Burt

Bawsey Pits. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

The tragic final moments of a teenage boy who drowned at a West Norfolk beauty spot were retold at an inquest into his death.

Inquest in to the death of Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits. Vanda Cawley.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.
Inquest in to the death of Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits. Vanda Cawley. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

The court heard how Umar Balogun, 16, died at Bawsey Pits on July 16, 2013, while on a day trip with support workers from Castle Lodge care home in Cambridge where he was living.

In a series of other developments Norfolk Coroner’s Court heard:

■ Staff and managers at the care home had not read his swimming risk assessment which said he was “high risk” and should only swim where there was a lifeguard present, and with a member of the care home staff.

■Care workers Vanda Cawley and Kevin Roweth took Umar and fellow care home resident Jamie Whiteman to the former quarry, and sat on the shore while the two teenagers paddled and splashed in the water close to the “no swimming” signs.

Inquest in to the death of Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits. Kevin Roweth.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Inquest in to the death of Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits. Kevin Roweth. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

■ Mr Roweth had been at the care home for just three weeks before the tragedy, and Miss Cawley had not yet passed her six-month probation period.

■ Both Mr Roweth and Miss Cawley are being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.

When asked, Miss Cawley said she did recall seeing a sign in the water which said “no swimming”, but Mr Roweth declined to answer the same question.

Telling the court about Umar’s final moments, Miss Cawley said: “It was the first time I had actually seen them smiling and communicating together positively which was lovely to see.

Inquest in to the death of Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits. Lyana Sinclair-Russell.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Inquest in to the death of Umar Balogun at Bawsey Pits. Lyana Sinclair-Russell. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

“I think they were about a little bit further in the water and turned around and threw their T-shirts in the sand. They were about waist height as they were ducking in the water.”

It was just after this that Miss Cawley said she could no longer see Umar.

A passing group of young people said they had seen a boy matching Umar’s description on the shore, and an area search began. His body was discovered by a diver later that evening entangled in heavy weeds.

When asked about whether she had read a risk assessment, Miss Cawley said in her experience it was normal to do an activity without making a formal plan.

She said trips would be reviewed afterwards to see how they could be done differently or better.

Earlier in the hearing the court heard a charge of corporate manslaughter against Castle Homes and gross negligence manslaughter against staff members Miss Cawley, Mr Roweth and former care home manager Lyana Sinclair-Russell were considered.

However, the evidence did not reach the threshold for prosecution on both counts and no charges were brought. Internal disciplinary action was taken against those members of staff.

Miss Cawley later resigned and Mr Roweth and Ms Sinclair-Russell were dismissed.

The jury inquest will resume today and is expected to last until Friday.


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