Mum of man who drowned at beauty spot speaks of frustration after inquest
- Credit: Denise Bradley/Facebook
The mother of a 20-year-old who drowned in a beauty spot lake has told of her frustration and her view that an inquest into his death has "achieved nothing".
Radek Gina died on June 16 last year, after getting into difficulties in the cold waters of the former quarry at Bawsey Country Park.
Mr Gina was the fourth person to drown at the park's lakes in the last decade, but the inquest into his death heard that the owners felt powerless to stop people swimming there, despite the activity being strictly banned.
Following the hearing, Mr Gina's mother, Beatrice Syvakova, spoke of her frustration that more was not being done to prevent future incidents.
She said: "Nothing will ever bring my son back, but this achieved nothing."
The hearing heard how Mr Gina, a labourer from Wisbech, was one of scores of people swimming in the water on the day he died and that the practice was extremely common - even though it is prohibited under park rules.
Staff at the park, commonly known as Bawsey Pits, said there was little they could do to prevent people from breaking the rules, and that they regularly face hostility while attempting to enforce them.
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The inquest heard how the 180-acre site is operated with a shoestring staff, consisting of a single warden, a park manager and three workers in its food kiosks.
Stephen Bacon, who purchased the site in August 2015, said that while the warden regularly patrols the site, there was little they could do the prevent people entering the water - or get them out once they go in.
"The lakes are huge and when people are asked politely not to swim in them or to get out, sometimes people are quite abusive," he said.
"One particular visitor was swimming with his daughter who could not have been more than five - when I reminded them of the rules he became quite hostile and came to tell me in no uncertain words where to go - and left his daughter in the water.
"Radek's death was a tragedy and my heart goes out to all of his family."
The inquest heard similar accounts from park warden Paul Garrod and its development manager, Richard Wilkins.
Mr Wilkins told the inquest that since Mr Gina's death, the park had increased the level of signage warning people of the dangers of cold water shock, and that staff had become "more vigilant" to people abusing the lakes.
He added: "We have increased education through our website and social media and there is no idea we will not explore to try and prevent further tragedies like Radek's."
The inquest heard that a 'multi-agency group' had been convened comprising of emergency services, health and safety officers from West Norfolk Council and representatives from the park to explore ways of addressing the problem.
Suggestions included ways of making the lakes appear less attractive through dying the water and planting, improving signage and employing additional staff at the site.
However, each of these suggestions came with difficulties preventing them from being utilised, including the lakes being connected to the region's main watercourse preventing dying and financial limitations on the unfunded country park.
The park is also exploring a range of other ways of deterring people from swimming, such as encouraging people to instead fish in the lakes and looking to attract a boating company to operate activities on the waters - rather than in them.
Senior coroner Jacqueline Lake concluded that Mr Gina's death had been accidental and opted against preparing a report to prevent future deaths.
She said: "Lots of people are continuing to go into the lake and I am particularly concerned to hear people are taking children into the water."
But added: "I have heard evidence that Mr Bacon has acted on advice from police, the RNLI and local councils and will continue to work to make the park safer.
"I am satisfied that action has and will continue to be taken."
Play It Safe Campaign
Mr Gina was the fourth person to drown in the waters at Bawsey Country Park.
In 2013, the site suffered a double tragedy, when 16-year-old Umar Balogan, from east London and 41-year-old Ryan Pettengell both drowned on the same day.
In August 2020, Kristers Bednarskis, from Peterborough, also drowned there while celebrating his 22nd birthday.
Following Mr Gina's death, this newspaper launched a water safety campaign called Play It Safe.
The campaign aims to ensure everybody visiting Norfolk's waters stays safe by spreading awareness of the dangers of cold water shock and 'wild' swimming.
If you would like to support our water safety campaign, posters can be ordered for free from here, where you will only pay for postage: https://www.norfolkstore.co.uk/store/Play-it-Safe-Water-Safety-Poster-Just-pay-P&P-p372304298