Firm admits blame for Michelle Gellard’s death

Michelle Gellard. Pic: Essex Police

A leisure firm has admitted  breaching health and safety laws following the drowning of seven-year-old Michelle Gellard in one of their pools.

Michelle, from the Isle of Dogs, was pulled unconscious from the pool at Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon, Essex on June 14 2008.

A jury returned a verdict last year of accidental death by emersion.

Michelle was a member of Docklands Dragons Judo club and had taken part in a tournament at the centre. She had won a silver medal before going to play in the pool.

In August the Health and Safety Executive said it would prosecute Leisure Connection Ltd, which runs the centre, under section 3 (i) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The firm admitted failing to ensure the safety of a member of the public at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday.

Michelle was found face down in the pool and was pulled out of the water by a lifeguard and another swimmer.

Staff tried to resuscitate here at the scene before she was flown to Colchester General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

She was a pupil at Harbinger Primary School in the Docklands.

Her parents, Mark Gellard and Sian Lakey paid tributes to their daughter at the time:

“She was a cheeky little madam with attitude who could make anyone laugh, but was also a loving, helpful and confident little girl.

“She loved her judo and had been a member of the Docklands Dragons judo club for about 12 months.

“She had an ability to make friends easy and look after new pupils – she was old before her time.”

The company will be sentenced in March 2013, and said it would give further comments then.


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