Safety alert after boy drowned in Norfolk

Mary HamiltonNorfolk County Council came under fire yesterday for inadequate safety measures after a 15-year-old boy died in a tragic accident.Mary Hamilton

Norfolk County Council came under fire yesterday for inadequate safety measures after a 15-year-old boy died in an accident.

Zabiullah Assadi, known as Zabi, died during a family day out on August 17 last year while swimming beyond the designated area at Whitlingham Little Broad near Norwich.

Giving evidence at his inquest yesterday, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Joanne Williams said insufficient risk assessments had been completed with regards to swimming in Little Broad.

She said that if a bottom profile assessment had been carried out, it would have revealed a sudden drop of about two metres from shallow water. And she added that signs showing the designated swimming area were inaccurate when compared with the position of the buoys themselves, and that deep-water warnings did not mention the underwater vegetation.

Coroner William Armstrong said: "This inquest has revealed issues which clearly require attention and no doubt will receive attention. It is reassuring that, following this tragedy, swimming has been stopped on Little Broad."

After the inquest, Lisa Christensen, director of children's services for Norfolk County Council, said: "With little guidance available on open-water swimming, we believed reasonable steps had been taken to ensure safety.

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"The HSE is continuing to investigate the circumstances around Zabiullah's death, and the arrangements in place at the Little Broad. Because this is ongoing, I am not in a position to comment further on the specifics."

Zabi, 15, from Burton on Trent, was swimming with his friend Mirtaza Vafai, also 15, at about 5.20pm when the pair got into difficulties in deep water beyond the designated swimming area, which was marked with buoys. Family friend Ali Rezai, from Norwich, rushed into the water and managed to save Mirtaza, but when he returned to try to rescue Zabi he was already submerged under the waves. After a two-hour rescue bid by Whitlingham Park staff and emergency services, Zabi's body was recovered by a volunteer diver who found him three or four metres underwater, trapped in weeds.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death. The HSE will now consider whether to bring legal proceedings against Norfolk County Council.