Essex Pool Deaths Were 'Accidental'

15 May 2014, 14:26 | Updated: 16 May 2014, 05:28

A family has said the death of a couple in a hotel swimming pool in Essex could have been avoided if safety concerns had been addressed sooner.

Komba Kpakiwa, 31, and Josephine Foday, 22, died at the four star Down Hall Country House Hotel in Hatfield Heath on the evening of April 27 last year.

Nursing student Miss Foday, from Plumstead, south-east London, had been at the hotel celebrating her birthday with married father-of-two Mr Kpakiwa.

An inquest jury in Chelmsford has ruled they died as a result of an accident.

Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said she would raise concerns in a report about the pool's design after an inspection found it to be an unusual design.

Its claimed the gradient of the slope from shallow to deep was unusually steep.

The inquest heard a customer had written to the hotel a year earlier to raise similar concerns but nothing was done.

The pool has been closed since the deaths and there's no plans for it to re-open.

Outside the inquest, Mr Kpakiwa's sister Angela Kpakiwa, from Bedfordshire, said: "We feel their deaths could have been avoided if there was a lifeguard or if they had acted on the concerns when they were raised a year earlier.

"I'm personally against a hotel like that without a lifeguard.

"This has been a very hard process for us and we are still coming to terms with it as a family.''

She described her brother, a shop worker and law student, as a good person who was there for anybody who needed him.

The family said they were considering possible legal action against the hotel and would be seeking an apology.

She said the family only found out about the couple's relationship after their deaths.

"It was a shock but they were both consenting adults and there are two sides to every story,'' Ms Kpakiwa added.

The bodies of Komba Kpakiwa and Josephine Foday were found floating in the pool by another hotel guest.

He'd seen the pair splashing around but thought they were 'playing boisterously'.

There was no lifeguard and the CCTV camera for the pool area was broken.

Hotel staff rushed to drag the pair from the pool and attempted to resuscitate them.

The couple died as guests, including a wedding party, watched the drama unfold.

Miss Foday had lived with her grandmother since arriving in England from her native Sierra Leone in 2001.

Mr Kpakiwa, from Erith, Kent, was also originally from Sierra Leone.

His wife, Gurpeet Kpakiwa, did not comment as she left the inquest.

Miss Foday's family had not been present.

Geoff Smith, head of environmental health at Uttlesford District Council said: 

"The council is the health and safety enforcing authority for the hotel and has undertaken a full investigation of the incident and will be making a decision as to whether legal proceedings will be instigated in due course.''

A hotel spokesman said: "We wish to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Komba Kpakiwa and Josephine Foday for their loss.''