St Albans toddler drowns in swimming pool

AN “adventurous” St Albans toddler drowned in a swimming pool after wandering off from his parents at a family engagement party, an inquest has heard.

Bride-to-be Jane Pearman described how she screamed when she found her cousin’s two-year-old son, Ryan Pearman, face down in the pool, in the grounds of a neighbour’s Oxfordshire home.

The toddler, of Smug Oak Lane, Bricket Wood, was airlifted to hospital but died later that day.

The inquest at Oxford last Thursday heard how Jane was part of the search for tragic Ryan, who had vanished during the engagement party in Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, on Sunday, July 31.

She said: “I had been saying goodbye to guests when Chris (Ryan’s father) had come to the front door and asked if I had seen Ryan.

“I walked up into next door’s garden and could see there was a pool of water on the top of the cover of the swimming pool, which had not been there when I had spoken to Margaret (the owner of the house) earlier in the day.

“I lifted up the cover about half a metre and saw Ryan. I must have shouted or screamed at that point. I went straight in and got him out.”

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Jane said that her family joined her soon after and CPR was given to Ryan’s tiny frame when the paramedics arrived.

He was airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford but could not be revived and was certified dead at 7.30pm.

Forty adults and 10 children were at the party, hosted by Ryan’s great-uncle and aunt, to celebrate their daughter Jane’s engagement.

Ryan’s distraught father, Christopher Pearman, told the inquest that his son had been supervised throughout the day.

He agreed with Coroner Nicholas Gardiner that it was a case of “both parents thinking the other was looking after him”.

He said: “Ryan had been a few steps in front of me going into the garden and my wife thought he was with me.

“He was a very active youngster. He had played hide and seek and swing ball. The last time I saw him was with Ben (Ryan’s brother) having a drink.”

The inquest heard Ryan wandered off when many of the family were playing cricket in a nearby field and other adults were inside the house.

He had got through some fence posts at the rear of the garden and onto a country track, which led him to next door’s house.

The death was not treated as suspicious Det Con Rick Josey, of Thames Valley Police, told the coroner.

A post mortem examination showed the toddler had drowned. Dr Steve Gould told the inquest that the youngster had fluid on his lungs.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Gardiner said: “The swimming pool proved irresistibly tempting for a two year old child.

“It was unfortunate the pool was unguarded.”

Speaking after the inquest, Ryan’s parents Chris and Siobhan described their son as a “beautiful, happy, loving and funny little boy.”

“He was nearing his third birthday when he died. The middle of our three boys, he was always the centre of everything that happened.

“Until this tragic event we did not realise how dangerous some of the commonly used pool covers can be. Some pool covers give the impression of being solid - especially to a child - but in fact are not.

“We hope that what happened to our much loved son Ryan will draw attention to this so that other people learn from it and hopefully similar tragedies can be avoided in the future.

“The Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board will be including a message about swimming pool safety in the ‘Safe in the Sun’ campaign they are running in the Spring.

“In memory of our son we will also be pushing for UK legislation to introduce safety measures, for instance fencing or child-safe pool covers for all in-ground pools. We do not want any other child to lose their life in this way.

“We would like to thank the staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and the Air Ambulance service who tried so hard to save Ryan’s life.

“The Air Ambulance gave Ryan the best chance he had. As a family we are fundraising for the Hertfordshire and Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Services in support of their good work.”