Michelle Gellard swimming pool death: Leisure firm fined

Michelle Gellard Michelle was described as a "loving, confident and helpful little girl"

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A leisure firm will have to pay nearly £200,000 for a health and safety breach in which a seven-year-old girl died.

Michelle Gellard was pulled unconscious from the pool at Blackwater Leisure Centre, in Maldon, Essex, in June 2008.

Bedfordshire-based Leisure Connection Ltd, which runs the centre, admitted failing to ensure the safety of a member of the public.

At Chelmsford Crown Court the company was fined £90,000 and told to pay prosecution costs of £101,000.

In a statement, her parents Mark and Sian Gellard said: "As a family, life is still very difficult without Michelle.

"We are still trying to come to terms with what happened. She is dearly missed by all the family and in our thoughts every day."

Leisure Connection declined to comment on the case.

'Tragic and untimely'

An inquest into Michelle's death returned a verdict of accidental death by immersion.

The inquest jury heard Michelle, from the Isle of Dogs in east London, had been competing in a judo competition at the centre and went for a swim after winning a silver medal.

She was pulled out of the pool by a lifeguard and fellow swimmer, but staff were unable to resuscitate her. She was flown to Colchester General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The inquest heard she had suffered a mild head injury while in judo class.

After the hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector Antonina Drury said: "This tragic and untimely death should never have happened.

"Members of the public visiting leisure centre swimming pools have an entitlement to expect that the operator paid to run them will deploy and train its staff so as to provide sufficient numbers of lifeguards in the right places so as to operate the pool safely."

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