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David Lloyd fined £2.5 million fine for causing the death of toddler at Leeds pool

A Leeds leisure club owner where three-year-old Rocco Wright drowned has been ordered to pay out more than £2.5 million after admitting liability for the youngster’s death. 

David Lloyd Leisure Ltd legally accepted causing the death of the toddler at its Moortown pool in 2018, after a lawsuit was launched by Leeds City Council. 

The company committed a “serious” health and safety breach for having “inadequate lifeguard arrangements”. 

Only one lifeguard, a part-time worker just aged 17 at the time, was working that tragic day. Guidance from the Health & Safety Executive recommends that a 25-metre-long pool should have two lifeguards on duty. 

Nobody saw Rocco enter the water and he was found by his frantic father minutes later, face down at the bottom of the pool. 

Judge Simon Phillips KC today outlined the failures of the company during a hearing at Leeds Crown Court this morning, fining it £2,550,000 and ordering it to pay more than £258,000 in legal costs. 

He said the company failed to “respond to concerns” about the number of lifeguards working at any one time by the workers themselves, and that at the time of the tragedy, that period of the day was not regarded as a “peak time”, so did not employ more lifeguards. 

It was found that lifeguards were also not given proper breaks and expected to carry out other jobs while on duty, such as testing the water and clearing away objects. The glare from the sun also obstructed full views of the pool for the lifeguard. 

Judge Phillips said: “David Lloyd Ltd failed to take practicable steps to eliminate or reduce the risk of drowning. 

“Central to this tragedy is the grief of Rocco Wright’s family. Anyone reading these statements supplied by Rocco Wright’s distraught parents, could not failed to be moved by the grief and suffering his drowning has occasioned. 

“The culpability is I find high. David Lloyd Ltd fell far short of the standard, by failing to put in place the measures that are recognised standards in the industry and by ignoring concerns raised by employees.” 

He said that no blame was portioned to the young lifeguard working that day. 

Rocco had been with his father and sister at the pool on the morning of April 21, 2018. He was stood with his father who was trying to organise his daughter’s swimming lesson before taking Rocco swimming himself. 

He then realised Rocco was no longer by his side and began to panic. His worst nightmare came true when he spotted Rocco at the bottom of the pool. 

Screaming for help, he quickly dragged him out and efforts were made to revive the youngster at the side of the pool. He was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary but was declared dead the following day. 

Following an inquest into Rocco’s death in February 2020, Rocco’s father told a coroner that his son’s death “could and should have been prevented”. 

The prosecution was first brought against David Lloyd Leisure Ltd in November 2021, and an initial not-guilty plea was indicated with a three-week trial expected to follow. 

But the firm was re-arraigned last month and pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of a person not working for the company. 

Don’t wait till it’s too late! Prevent accidents from happening in your company, click here to find out more about our Health and Safety Risk Assessments.

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