Children should undergo swimming tests before being allowed to go swimming on school trips, a coroner has recommended, after a schoolboy drowned in a Canadian lake after being pushed into the water by a schoolfriend.
Abdul Jamal Ottun, 17, a house captain at Wallington County grammar school in Surrey, was on a two-week rugby tour after completing his AS levels in July 2015 when he died swimming in Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver island.
The Southwark coroner Andrew Harris heard that the rugby coach Dus Sotiriou was taking photos on a smartphone from the dock when the boy was pushed off a jetty, with others failing to notice him in the water.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Harris said: “It is quite clear that the risk assessment was not adequate. It is clear that there was no lifeguard or adequate supervision.
“He did not struggle. His plight was not noticed by his teachers or supervisors, one of whom was taking photographs on the jetty. I am minded to write a report to the Department for Education asking for a swimming test to be taken before children can go swimming on school trips.”
The inquest heard that the schoolboy, from Sydenham, who had 12 CGSEs and was applying to universities to study economics, had been fasting for Ramadan for 15-20 days before the trip, but not on the trip.
His mother, Lolade Ottun, 47, a maths teacher, said he was an “average swimmer” who had never swum in a lake before, and was not allowed to swim in the sea.
Around 25 boys were in and out of the water, and no one saw him struggling. Sotiriou, who took 53 photos from the jetty, said even if he had not been using his camera he did not think he would have been able to see him slip below the water.
David Johnson, the director of sport, who was responsible for risk assessment of the lake on the day, said: “Prior to going on the trip parents had to sign a form. They had to circle an indication of their son’s swimming ability.” Johnson said he had been in the water, and the boys had been warned to be sensible. None of them went further than 10 metres from the jetty. He had “skim read” a DfE document on group leadership and water safety.
A health and safety expert, Peter Cornall, said there needed to be “fundamental changes” to the national curriculum regarding swimming safety.
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