Teen in pool tragedy was 'stuck in vent'

A 17-YEAR-OLD drowned on a family holiday after getting stuck against a swimming pool vent, an inquest has heard.

Will Clarke

A17-YEAR-OLD drowned on a family holiday after getting stuck against a swimming pool vent, an inquest has heard.

The suction pressure from the vent became so intense it required six holidaymakers to free Ashley Surtees .

The trainee bricklayer from Stowmarket died on a family holiday in July 2007 while staying at the IFA Dunamar Hotel in Gran Canaria, a Thomas Cook resort.

An inquest held yesterday in Bury St Edmunds found the teenager drowned after becoming stuck to a pool vent designed to filter the water.

The 15cm vent was attached to a power pump with an engine boasting between two and four horse power.

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In the five or ten minutes he was in the water, the effect of increasing suction pressure became so intense it required six holidaymakers to bring his body to the surface.

However, Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean said it could not be determined how the teenager came to be held to the vent even if its force had held him beneath the water for long enough to kill him.

Peter MacGregor, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, who was commissioned by Thomas Cook to examine the pool and which met Spanish safety requirements, said he experimented with the pump shortly after the incident in 2007.

Mr MacGregor said the accident was “highly unusual” and experimented with the power of the vent using his body and a plastic poolside table. He concluded it was not powerful enough to draw a person into it even if it could have held a person in place once they had become stuck.

Carl Love, who carried out an autopsy in the UK concluded the cause of death was drowning but could not rule out a “medical event” like a heart attack even though there was no evidence from the Spanish autopsy.

He said there was a 15cm bruising and abrasion area on the lower stomach area.

Dr Dean said: “For some unexplained reason he became fixed there.

“It may have been intentional but that is unlikely so that leaves us with two other options; possibly he was impacted upon or possibly there was some medical event which can neither be confirmed nor excluded.”

Dr Dean recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Speaking after the inquest, Jeremy Cobbold, Ashley Surtees' stepfather, said: “We still aren't 100% about what happened. He was a valued son and a tragic loss to our family.”

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “Our deepest and sincere sympathy will always be with the family and friends of Ashley Surtees and our thoughts continue to be with them at this very difficult and painful time of Ashley's inquest.”