http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/school-and-pool-at-fault-for-drowning/2008/10/24/1224351543974.htmlCHILDREN on school swimming excursions should be identified as swimmers and non-swimmers by coloured wrist bands and more lifeguards should monitor them
, said a coroner who has held the Department of Education and a council swimming pool responsible for the death of an eight-year-old girl.
Amarni Dirani drowned at the Glenbrook Swim Centre on December 15, 2006.
Amarni's family was represented on the final day of the inquest into her death yesterday by her father, Raja Dirani, uncles and cousins. They cried for the loss of their "angel" as the findings were delivered at Westmead Coroners Court.
The deputy state coroner Carl Milovanovich found that although no indictable offence had been committed, Amarni's was a "tragic but avoidable death" that occurred because the school and the swimming pool had neglected to follow guidelines on water safety.
Cambridge Gardens Public School had failed to identify Amarni as a non-swimmer and had not adequately supervised its students in the water, and the swimming centre had not provided a dedicated lifeguard to supervise an inflatable device on which students were playing, as the guidelines stipulated.
"I don't want to see another child die in a swimming centre on a school supervised day," Mr Milovanovich said. "It shouldn't ever happen."
He recommended that coloured wrist bands should be used at unstructured school swimming days to identify swimmers and non-swimmers, and that the number of supervising lifeguards should be increased from one for every 100 students to one for every 50.
But neither recommendation might have saved Amarni, who had been identified as a competent swimmer on her parental permission slip and who was one of about 200 students under the supervision of 19 teachers and three lifeguards on the day she drowned.
Amarni had returned her parental permission slip to her teacher, who noted that her parents had forgotten to indicate her swimming ability by deleting the phrase on the sheet that did not apply: either "my child can swim 20 metres" or "my child is a non-swimmer".
The teacher returned the signed form to her to take back to her parents, and it eventually came back with the phrase "my child can swim 20 metres" circled with a blue biro.
Mr Milovanovich said it was pure speculation as to whether Amarni or another member of her family had drawn that circle, but regardless of how it was completed or detected, it was the "catalyst" to the events that led to her death.
On the day of her death, the school and swimming pool had provided a staffing ratio within Department of Education and Royal Life Saving Society guidelines, but supervision was nevertheless inadequate if a child could drown without being observed by 19 teachers plus aides, he said.
It was apparent that many teachers were distracted by the flotation device and were not watching the pool floor.
Mr Milovanovich said it was most likely Amarni had pulled herself up to the deep end from the shallow end, where she had been playing, by holding on to the side of the pool. She probably slipped off the edge and into the water beyond her height, he said.
"It has been said that drowning can be a silent death, particularly with children who cannot swim."