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Pool lifeguard was texting when boy drowned

The family of a 10-year-old boy who drowned in a swimming pool in the Republic of Ireland have welcomed a recommendation banning lifeguards from using mobile phones while on duty.

Peter Whelan died at the bottom of the deep end of a Dublin pool in March of last year. The only lifeguard on duty admitted yesterday that he was using his phone to send texts shortly beforehand, while seated at the shallow end of the pool.

"It's not advisable, no, it was bad judgment," Bobby Ledden told an inquest into the young boy's death. "It's not a practice I'd usually do."

Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty heard testimonies from four young boys -- including Peter's brother Christopher (12) -- that the youngster had been swimming in the shallow end of pool of the Coolmine Sports Complex on the afternoon of March 1, 2008, using the aid of floats as he was not a strong swimmer.

Some of the other boys could swim, and spent some time in the deep end of the pool. None of them nor the lifeguard saw how Peter made his way to the deep end.

There were 33 people in the pool at the time, and Mr Ledden gave evidence that another boy in the pool that day had required CPR previously, and admitted his attention may have been drawn to him.

"I didn't do it consciously, but I was always noting where (the other boy) was," Mr Ledden said.

The first realisation that Peter was in trouble was when Kevin Hayes, who was looking after four children in the deep end, saw "a boy lying face down at the bottom of the pool".

Mr Hayes pulled the 10-year-old out but he was not breathing. The lifeguard administered CPR before an ambulance brought the youngster to hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Mr Hayes and two of the young boys with Peter said in evidence that the lifeguard had been using his mobile phone while working. Mr Ledden said he was not sending texts at the time of the accident but confirmed he had sent messages "earlier".

The pool in question has since banned the use of mobile phones by lifeguards and, after recording a verdict of accidental death by drowning, the jury yesterday recommended a complete ban on mobile phones in swimming pools across the country.

Dr Geraghty said that he would seek out what government department to approach to pass on the recommendation, specifically concerning the use of mobiles by lifeguards.

Speaking afterwards, Peter's mother, Liz Valentine, said that she was happy with the mobile phone recommendation, adding that it would bring some closure. "If we can get some other tragedy stopped by the recommendations, it won't be worth (Peter's) life but it will go to help a lot," she said.

Peter, of Whitestown Avenue, Dublin 15, was in fourth class at school when he died.

"He was a cheeky little fella, always up to mischief, always a smile on his face, a great footballer," his mother said. "He got player of the match the day he died, he got player of the year after he died. He was a well-loved little boy."

Management at Coolmine Sports Complex confirmed that lifeguards are banned from using mobile phones while on duty.

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions last year on the incident, but it is understood that the Whelan family has been told that it will not be proceeding further.

Source rish Independent

Belfast Telegraph