Coroner issues water warning after toddler drowns in pond

A CORONER has issued a warning about the dangers of open water after a toddler drowned in a pond just yards from where his mother was working on an allotment.

Kurt Darlow, who was two months short of his second birthday, had been playing with his three older brothers and a friend when he wandered off and climbed a small embankment to get into a pond on a smallholding in Barrow Haven, North Lincolnshire, on September 13 last year.

He had only been out of his mother's sight for "a couple of minutes" when she noticed he was missing.

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After a frantic search of the site, Kurt was found about 10 minutes later, eight feet from the bank in about three feet of water.

Despite efforts to resuscitate him at the scene by police, paramedics and his mother's friend, and by staff at Hull Royal Infirmary, Kurt was pronounced dead at the hospital at 12.08pm.

A post-mortem examination revealed he died of drowning.

Kurt had gone to the allotment in Ferry Road with his mother Caroline Hickman and his brothers Airon, eight, Tyler, four, and three-year-old Ashton.

Mrs Hickman told an inquest into his death yesterday: "We'd gone to water the vegetables and pick some produce.

"The children went to the vegetables first and then the children went off to play on a grass bank.

"Kurt was with us and then he just wandered to where they all were and we could see him," she said.

"A couple of minutes later we turned to see where he'd wandered to, where his brothers were playing together.

"When we turned we saw my friend's little boy and my older three playing, then realised we couldn't see Kurt."

Asked by North Lincolnshire and Grimsby District Coroner, Paul Kelly, whether she was anxious at that point, Mrs Hickman said: "Yes, because he'd never wandered off."

Mrs Hickman rang the police minutes later, thinking Kurt had gone off the site down the road.

Some friends who had arrived joined in the search and after about 10 minutes Aaron Smith saw Kurt's leg in the pond and went in to get him out.

Mr Smith said: "At first I thought it was a carrier bag. We had a few words amongst us about who was going in and I just went in."

Mrs Hickman, of Chapel Street, Goxhill, North Lincolnshire, described her family as "close and traditional".

In tearful evidence she said Kurt was "always smiling, very bubbly, very outgoing, would respond to anybody, friendly and happy".

Mr Kelly recorded a verdict of accidental death, and said: "What I do hope is Kurt's death will act as a reminder to owners and occupiers of land containing open water to review safety, having in mind those who might reasonably be expected to be on that land.

"And also bearing in mind the fact that open stretches of water are well known to be alluring to young people and children."

He added to Mrs Hickman: "We are really very sorry that you lost Kurt in such a sad way. You have conducted yourself with considerable courtesy and dignity today, thank you for that."

In Scunthorpe today, the emergency services were due to carry out mock rescues in a pond that has claimed the lives of three children over the last 10 years.

Lebohang Carrington Sibanda, 12, was playing with friends at Ashbyville Pond in May 2008 when he drowned after his makeshift raft broke.

He was the third child to die in the pond following the drowning of Louise Wood, 12, and eight-year-old Hayleigh Hinton in August 2000.

North Lincolnshire Council said it had organised the safety exercise to test procedures a day before the start of the school Easter holidays.