Man had ‘very slim chance’ of survival had firefighters acted quicker in Gosport lake death

TRAGIC DEATH Simon Burgess
TRAGIC DEATH Simon Burgess
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A CORONER has called for better training for all emergency services after the death of a man in a lake.

David Horsley said there was a ‘very slim chance’ that if Simon Burgess had been pulled from the water earlier he might have survived.

He ruled the decision by firefighters not to retrieve his body from Walpole Park lake in Gosport was not a significant factor in his death, which he ruled was accidental.

However, he said he would be writing to all emergency services to recommend changes to their policies following the incident in March last year.

Burgess, 41, of White Lion Walk, Gosport, had fallen into the lake and drowned after suffered a seizure, the Portsmouth inquest heard.

Eyewitnesses had criticised fire crews for ‘standing around doing nothing’ while his body floated in the water.

In a statement, Hampshire Fire and Rescue service said: ‘The inquest into the incident at Walpole Lake in March 2011 has now been concluded and the actual facts and clarity around the circumstances of the incident have been shared. As a learning organisation we take this very seriously and accept the coroner’s verdict.

‘This was a tragic incident and our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Burgess at this difficult time.

‘Our officers and firefighters make difficult decisions and professional judgements every day, whatever the situation or incident. Their actions are based on training, balanced judgement and assessments based on the information and circumstances they are faced with in a dynamic situation.

‘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. Our officers and staff made an informed assessment and judgement based on the circumstances they faced. 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 Services 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.

‘Our officers and crews, followed our Service policy which is in line with national guidance. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service fully supports the decisions and actions of its officers and crews on that day.

‘After this incident and subsequent internal debrief, we reviewed our water rescue policy and made changes based on our findings. These changes are in response to identified gaps in the existing policy and suggested changes by our staff. This builds on the effective water rescue response capability the service has developed in recent years.

‘We will now implement our updated policy into the Service and support our officers and staff as they continue to work professionally and respond to emergency incidents in the local area and across the county, taking calculated risks to save lives.’