Girl, 6, left alone in pool, died after near-drowning

Coroner: Her granduncle thought she could swim, didn't tell her he would be leaving her unattended

Assuming that his six-year-old grandniece could swim without a float, a man left her unattended in a hotel swimming pool - with fatal consequences.

Andrea Hailey Tan Yan Ying was found fully submerged in the pool at Sentosa's Festive Hotel about five minutes later on Oct 7 last year. She died in hospital 10 days later.

At the inquiry into her death on Monday, State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said that she died of hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy - lack of oxygen and blood flowing to the brain - and pneumonia following a near-drowning.

She noted that Andrea, who stood at 1.18m, was left unattended in the pool that has a depth of 1.2m - 2cm deeper than her height.

She also said that the child, who was unable to swim, had been using her swimming float in the water that day.

State Coroner Kamala added: "Her granduncle held the mistaken belief that she knew how to swim. He also placed faith in the swimming float to keep her safe. A child who is unable to swim must always be accompanied by an adult in the swimming pool and be kept within arm's reach and in line of sight.

"A flotation device like a swimming float is not a substitute for constant, vigilant, adult supervision."

On Monday, State Coroner Kamala said that Andrea's granduncle, Mr Ong Cheng Chye, took the little girl and his three-year-old son to the hotel's adult pool at around 10am on Oct 7 last year.

The two children had swimming floats which they wore around their torsos. Andrea's grandmother, Madam Ong Kim Tee, had bought them for the children a day earlier.

Mr Ong then guided his son across the length of the pool before they got out and went to another pool.

CONSTANT ADULT SUPERVISION NEEDED

A child who is unable to swim must always be accompanied by an adult in the swimming pool and be kept within arm's reach and in line of sight. A flotation device like a swimming float is not a substitute for constant, vigilant, adult supervision.

STATE CORONER KAMALA PONNAMPALAM

The court heard that he did not inform Andrea that he would be leaving her alone.

Madam Ong later spotted the girl's float drifting on the water. She ran towards the pool and shouted for help after she saw her granddaughter fully submerged in the pool.

Mr Ong jumped into the pool and hauled the unconscious Andrea out.

A bystander performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her and the police were alerted at 10.36am.

Paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived nine minutes later and she was rushed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, where she died 10 days later.

In her findings, the state coroner found no shortcomings in the design and maintenance of the pool.

She said: "What was singularly lacking was adult supervision."


Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2019, with the headline 'Girl, 6, left alone in pool, died after near-drowning'. Print Edition | Subscribe