'It was chaos': Witness describes moments after girl, 11, went missing at Liquid Leisure water park

·5-min read

A witness has described the "chaos" of the moments after a young girl went missing at a water park, with footage showing panicked members of the public calling out her name in a desperate search.

An 11-year-old girl died after she got into difficulty in the water at Liquid Leisure in Windsor, Berkshire, on Saturday afternoon, where she was attending a birthday party.

Her death is being treated as unexplained with an investigation under way.

The girl's family has been informed, although formal identification is still pending.

Flowers and tributes have been left outside the park, which remained closed on Sunday.

A witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told Sky News of the chaotic moments after it became apparent something serious had happened.

She arrived at the park just after 3pm and was near the birthday group as the incident unfolded.

"There was a ridiculous amount of people on the inflatables," she said.

"It was just chaos, people were falling in and jumping off, it would have been hard to keep track of.

"As we were queuing, a woman was running up and down asking if we had seen this girl, she was crying out for her. She gave us her name and description. She did not know where she was."

After ten minutes, she said staff began looking for her "in the changing rooms, on the beach. People were calling out her name".

Video footage seen by Sky News shows panicked beachgoers desperately calling out her name.

'It just went totally silent'

The woman said it was another 20 minutes before the inflatables area was cleared and at least 40 minutes before any emergency services arrived on the scene.

She said: "There was this young girl running up and down asking if anyone had goggles, shouting 'we need to look for her under the water'.

"At this point, staff began jumping in the water.

"It's a really busy place and there are a lot of people but after about 15 minutes it just went totally silent. I can't even describe the tension that built up.

"In the space of a few minutes when they cleared the inflatables and they got all the staff on them, that's when it became apparent something was really wrong."

She has criticised the park and said: "There was no emergency plan. They did not have any tannoy system or any alarm."

She also questioned why people were not asked to leave sooner: "Everyone was standing around watching and it was not helping. It was chaos."

A 'splash' and the girl 'didn't return to the surface'

Mum-of-two Anna Cakebread was on the beach - in an area where life jackets aren't required - near where the young girl was last seen.

She told Sky News her husband was watching their nephew and children when he noticed they were " out of their depth".

As he called their children, her brother-in-law "spotted to the right of that, there was a girl and a group of children about 12. One of the girls had a splash and gone under and he was alarmed that he hadn't seen her return to the surface of the water."

Ms Cakebread said: "At that point, he looked across to the lifeguard that was on duty and she had already spotted and she went straight into the water."

She described the atmosphere in the park as "like a silent panic".

"It went very quiet," she said. "It needed to be because the lifeguards that were searching, they were out on the water and they needed to be able to communicate."

"Just before we were asked to leave the beach there was a group of parents working in the Ninja Warrior area where they were taking off the velcro strips to try and disconnect the inflatables to look if there was anyone underneath there," she said.

A 'traumatic experience'

Other customers have praised the lifeguards for their work.

Benzo Osei said: "It was a very traumatic experience as we were so close to the course.

"It felt as if it could've happened to me or my friends. It was a true wake-up call and I don't think I will be returning."

He added: "Once they realised the severity of the situation the staff members handled it very well making sure nobody entered the assault course and keeping guests in a closed-off area until it was evacuated."

Gavin Springett, who worked at the park last summer putting in all the operation training and safety requirements, told Sky News earlier today: "No corners were ever cut on safety".

He said there are extensive safety measures throughout the park including "lifeguards on multiple areas of the park, there will be one or two on the beach, and one on every section of the inflatable courses".

"They are also open water swimming trained, and they do staff training monthly on water rescue."

"Buoyancy vests are compulsory on all inflatables even for adults," he added, and "the whole park is covered with CCTV."

Police commend public

Local policing area commander for Windsor and Maidenhead, Superintendent Michael Greenwood of Thames Valley Police, said: "My thoughts are with the family and friends of the girl who has died as a result of this tragic incident.

"We are in the early stages of investigating this incident to understand the full circumstances.

"There was a swift response from all emergency services and following an extensive search of the lake, the girl, who was 11, was located at around 5.10pm and taken to hospital but sadly died.

"This has been an extremely traumatic and upsetting incident for all involved.

"I am aware that several members of the public entered the lake shortly after the girl got into difficultly, but were unable to locate her.

"I would like to commend them for their courage and bravery."

In a statement, Liquid Leisure said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and all those effected by this desperately tragic and upsetting incident.

"As Thames Valley Police are in the early stages of an investigation it would not be right for us to add further comment, but we will continue to fully support and assist them throughout the process."