Police diver said the Bawsey Pits drowning was the most challenging dive of his career. Trial continues into two care workers charged with failing to take reasonable care of a teenager

Kevin Roweth

Kevin Roweth - Credit: Archant

A Wisbech man who was three weeks into his job, suggested taking care home teenagers to Bawsey Pits, jurors heard, at a trial into how a 16 year old drowned during a day trip that turned to disaster.

Care worker Vanda Cawley

Care worker Vanda Cawley - Credit: Archant

Umar Balogun, 16, died on the day out to the former sand quarry on July 16, 2013, when the non swimmer got tangled up in weeds and drowned.

A police diver involved in the search for the boy called it the most challenging dive of his career.

Support workers Kevin Roweth and Vanda Cawley took Umar and another boy to the pits on the fateful day.

Roweth, 29, of Edinburgh Drive, Wisbech and Cawley, 51, of Hazel Croft, Werrington, have entered not guilty pleas to a charge of failing to take reasonable care of the boy’s safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Bawsey Pits, near King's Lynn. Picture: IAN BURT.

Bawsey Pits, near King's Lynn. Picture: IAN BURT. - Credit: Archant

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Quentin Hunt, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, said serious breaches of the legislation had resulted in the tragedy.

He told the jury at King’s Lynn Crown Court that it was the defendants’ failure to take care of Umar that led to his death.

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Umar, who was originally from Nigeria, had been staying at a residential home for young people called Castle Lodge in Cambridge, run by a company called Castle Homes.

Roweth had only worked for the company for three weeks before the accident occurred and was still undergoing his induction, the jury was told. Cawley usually worked at a different home run by the company but was filling in at Castle Lodge.

Mr Hunt said Roweth had mentioned to other staff that he had been to Bawsey Pits and it would be a nice place to take young people on a trip.

Castle Homes had policies about taking children on trips which required risk assessments to be carried out, he said.

“Bawsey Pits is an area with significant risks,” Mr Hunt said. “The risk that the deep water pits carry is an obvious risk of drowning.”

No risk assessment was carried out before the group set out for Lynn and when they arrived, shortly before 4pm, they made their way to a sandy beach beside one of the lakes, he said.

They would have passed a number of signs warning against swimming, adding: “They took up position on a beach right in front of a sign, this sign was almost directly in front of the group as they sat on the beach, it was absolutely unmissable.

“These signs were in place for a very good reason. Because of the topography, the way that the bed was set up made it unsuitable for swimming.”

Mr Hunt said the lakes had steep drop-offs into deep water next to shallow areas and thick weed growth.

He added that a police diver involved in the search for Umar had described it as the most challenging dive of his career.

After sitting on towels for half an hour, Umar got up and entered the water with another boy, the court heard.

“It is at this point where the failings of the two defendants were most glaring,” he said. “They were there to look after the boys, they were there to ensure their safety.”

Mr Hunt said the defendants had not considered how deep the lake was or how well the boys were able to swim.

“There had been no discussion between the defendants about whether the boys should go in,” he said. “This isn’t like a public swimming pool, there aren’t life guards on duty at the pits.”

Mr Hunt said Umar disappeared under the water and did not resurface. Roweth went to look for him, wading out into chest-deep water, while Cawley called police.

After a lengthy search of the lake, Umar’s body was found at the bottom of a drop-off, tangled in weeds.

Counsel for the two defendants briefly addressed the jury after Mr Hunt concluded the prosecution’s opening.

Mark McDonald, defending Roweth, said he was an unskilled, untrained employee, who was in his third week with the company.

“He was untrained, unsupervised and not properly mentored,” he said. “Bawsey Pits was a popular attraction. This particular day was one of the hottest days of the year, there were many people swimming, paddling and boating on these lakes.

“The person that was responsible was not this inexperienced, untrained, unsupervised young man who sits behind me.”

William Carter, defending Cawley, told the jury: “We’ll see where the evidence takes us over the next few days. When you listen to it, please keep an open mind.”

The trial continues.

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