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Coroner finds 2014 Watermarc drowning death was preventable

Coroner finds 2014 Watermarc drowning death was preventable
August 18, 2016

The Victorian Coroner has found the drowning of an Indian student at a public swimming pool in Melbourne two years ago was avoidable.

Following an inquest into the drowning death of La Trobe University IT student Paul Rayudu, aged 23, in February 2014, Coroner Audrey Jamieson also criticised lifeguarding regulations for public swimming pools in Victoria stating a lack of confidence in the ratio of lifeguards to swimmers.

Rayudu drowned at the WaterMarc aquatic centre in Greensborough on a hot summers day in February 2014 when he and his girlfriend, Virajitha Kelangi, got into trouble in deep water.

When the incident occurred it was suggested that the pair knocked heads while jumping into the water but the inquest heard that the pair had visited the aquatic centre to use the waterslide and ventured into the shallow end of the pool, where they found the waterslide was closed.

After lifeguards removed dividing ropes from the crowded pool, the pair found themselves swimming over a steep drop-off.

Shortly afterwards, other swimmers spotted Kelangi floating face down, and were able to rescue her while Rayudu was found a short time later at the bottom of the pool but despite CPR he could not be revived and died six days after the incident.

The inquest found "no clear reason as to why Mr Rayudu got into difficulty in the water.

Coroner Audrey Jamieson found the pair could not swim and the pool was not adequately supervised, stating "I doubt they had a real appreciation of the dangers of getting out of their depth.”

She stated that Rayudu's death was avoidable, advising "I am satisfied that there is clear and cogent evidence that Paul Rayudu's death could have been prevented.

"No-one should drown at a public swimming pool."

The inquest heard there were four lifeguards on duty to supervise about 250 patrons at the WaterMarc pool, but the lifeguards themselves were not being adequately supervised, and they were distracted by other tasks with two being occupied at the time of the incident moving a boom in the pool.

One of the lifeguards on duty that day gave evidence that the lifeguard-to-patron ratio of one to 100 at public pools was "ridiculously high".

The lifeguard testified "it's ridiculous to think that one lifeguard can supervise 100 people.”

A pool supervisor also told investigators that the day of the drowning was the busiest day he had seen and that the pool's public address system was not working.

The inquest findings stated a lack of confidence in the ratio being used at Victoria's public pools, and also found there was no certainty about the exact number of patrons at the WaterMarc on the day Rayudu drowned.

The Coroner also recommended that Victorian Government authorities work to establish central oversight of swimming pools in Victoria.

She added "the lack of central oversight and regulation of swimming pools in Victoria is concerning.”

The ABC has reported that the managers of the WaterMarc pool have apologised to Rayudu's family.

Current Life Saving Victoria guidelines stipulate that there should be one lifeguard for every 100 swimmers.

A review of the incident presented at the 2015 Life Saving Victoria Pool Safety Summit can be viewed at http://lsv.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Fatal-Drowning-Incident-Review.pdf

Opened in September 2012, the $42 million award-winning WaterMarc is a Banyule City Council project managed by Belgravia Leisure.

Image: Top image used for illustrative purposes only. Lower image courtesy of Banyule City Council.

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