Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Man drowned feeding swans on lake after epileptic seizure

The boating lake at Walpole Park in Gosport
Image caption Firefighters defended their decision not to enter the lake at Walpole Park

A man drowned in a model boating lake in Hampshire while feeding swans after apparently suffering an epileptic seizure, an inquest heard.

Charity shop worker Simon Burgess, 41, of Burnhams Walk, Gosport, was found floating in the shallow lake at nearby Walpole Park in March 2011.

Coroner David Horsley recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Firefighters and police defended their decision not to enter the lake, instead waiting for specialist crews to arrive.

Half a boot

The inquest was told that firefighters arrived at the scene within five minutes of a 999 call.

PC Tony Jones volunteered to wade into the lake but was told not to by his control room and by Hampshire Fire and Rescue watch manager Tony Nicholls, who concluded that Mr Burgess had died.

The court was told that Mr Nicholls was following a force policy not to enter water more than "half a boot" deep unless it was a life-critical situation.

Paramedic Robert Wallace also suggested he should enter the water, but did not when Mr Nicholls asked where his equipment was.

Mr Burgess was retrieved from the water at 12:52 GMT, 37 minutes after the 999 call, and was pronounced dead at hospital at 13:42 GMT.

Mr Horsley told the court: "In this case, the delay in arrival of the specialist team has not been a significant factor in this tragic death."

He called on the emergency services to re-examine their protocols in dealing with such situations.

After the hearing, Mr Burgess's father, David, said: "We will never know if Simon could have been saved, if he had been pulled from the water as soon as the emergency services arrived on the scene or if it was already too late for him.

'Face down'

"When a loved one is involved in an incident like this, you can only hope that everything possible is done to save them regardless of how small the chances of success are."

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said: "Let us be clear, the decisions taken at the Walpole Lake incident had nothing to do with health and safety or the depth of the water.

"On arrival at the scene, the officer and crews saw a body face down and submerged in the water, who we now know to be Mr Simon Burgess.

"That person was unresponsive and showing no visible signs of life. Based on this assessment, they prepared for the arrival of one of the service's specialist water rescue unit to undertake a dignified retrieval of the individual from the water.

"Our officers and staff clearly stated, that if they saw any signs of life and the individual could be saved, they would have gone in to the water and followed rescue procedures."

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