Father of drowned man confronts fire service over death

TRAGIC DEATH Simon Burgess
TRAGIC DEATH Simon Burgess

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THE father of a man found face-down in a lake has confronted firefighters who stood by without rescuing him.

Simon Burgess was pronounced dead after being pulled from the water at Walpole Park in Gosport in March last year.

Simon Burgess' father David

Simon Burgess' father David

Now an inquest has heard firefighters decided there were no visible signs of life in the 41-year-old and did not go in to get him.

Instead they waited 11 minutes for a specialist unit to arrive from Fareham.

A police officer and paramedic both volunteered to wade into the water to rescue Mr Burgess, of White Lion Walk, but were told it was unsafe by the firefighter in charge.

Mr Burgess’ father David yesterday questioned senior fire officers about the decision.

He told them: ‘You could not prove beyond any doubt there was no life.’

The coroner’s court heard from pathologist Dr Brett Lockyer there was evidence to suggest Mr Burgess had suffered a seizure before ultimately drowning in the lake.

David Burgess said his son had suffered from epilepsy since he was 18 years old.

‘It seemed to come and go,’ he said. ‘In my opinion he had got slightly better.

‘The fits were more frequent but less intensive.’

Gosport watch manager Anthony Nicholls was the firefighter in charge.

He said: ‘At first I could not see anyone in the water and I had to ask members of the public to point him out to me.

‘There were no visible signs of life. I could only see a small part of him.

‘In my mind I’m thinking this person has been in water for maybe up to 15 minutes.

‘This was a body retrieval rather than a rescue.’

Gosport fire station manager Timothy Spencer-Peet observed the incident while his crew worked.

He said: ‘If there were signs of life we would have been in there and trying to retrieve him.

‘One of the remarks from one of the firefighters was if there had been any signs of life we would gone in and we would have made any effort to save that person by any means necessary.’

According to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, the 999 call came in at 12.17pm. It is thought Mr Burgess had been in the water for between five and 10 minutes by the time firefighters arrived.

PC Tony Jones was at the lake and said: ‘It didn’t sit right with me that nobody was going in to get the body.

‘Although there were no signs of life I didn’t feel happy with not doing anything.

‘I took my body armour off and my utility belt.

‘Mr Nicholls advised me not to go in as it is not safe to do so. He advised me firefighters would not go into water above the boot.’

(Proceeding)