Tributes to swimming pool tragedy girl

THE heartbroken parents of a girl who died at a swimming pool tragedy have paid tribute to their “little angel”.

THE heartbroken parents of a girl who died at a swimming pool tragedy have paid tribute to their “little angel”.

Michelle Gellard, seven, died in hospital after being found unconscious at the Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon.

Her parents Mark Gellard, an Asda worker, and housewife Sian Lakey, who live in a flat in the Isle of Dogs, east London, have paid tribute to the little girl they called their “princess” who died on Saturday afternoon.

In a heart-wrenching message to her daughter, Ms Lakey said: “My baby daughter, you are near but so far away.

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“You are in my thoughts forever, my love, you give me joy and happiness throughout the years gone by.

“I hope and pray you are not alone up there in heaven so high. I will be with you soon my darling daughter and we can dance together.

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“Michelle, your brothers and sister are missing you so much. Oh why, my little princess, oh why did they take you so young?

“God bless my little angel in the sky.”

Michelle was the third oldest of two brothers and a sister.

Her uncle Shane Lakey, 24, said she had been taking part in a Judo competition at the leisure centre then had gone for a swim when tragedy struck.

He said: “The girls do Judo and they were at a judo competition. They were enjoying a swim afterwards.

“The family are devastated but right now I don't think they know the truth about what happened.

“Michelle was the cheekiest little girl you will ever meet. Everyone is so upset.”

A post mortem was due to be carried out yesterday afternoon but the results have not been made public at this stage.

Speaking at the weekend, Penny Channer, leader of Maldon District Council, which owns the leisure centre, said: “First and foremost we would like to offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to all the girl's family and friends and those who were involved in the incident.

“Maldon District Council is currently undertaking a full and thorough investigation, working closely with the Health and Safety Executive and Essex Police,”

She said the investigation was being undertaken with the full co-operation of Leisure Connection, the company which runs the pool on the council's behalf.

Graham Farrant, the chief executive of Leisure Connection has said: “All our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and we will do anything we can to help the police to investigate this tragic incident.

“We are working closely with the police investigators and the local council, and the centre will remain closed while this vital investigation takes place.”

Essex Police confirmed the death is not being treated as suspicious and the matter has been referred to the coroner's office and Maldon District Council for investigation.

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