Drayton Manor death: Schoolgirl died 'accidentally' on water ride, inquest finds

Alix Culbertson, news reporter
Drayton Manor death: Schoolgirl died 'accidentally' on water ride, inquest finds

The death of a schoolgirl who fell from a water ride at Drayton Manor theme park was accidental, an inquest has ruled.

Evha Jannath, 11, died after she was "propelled" from a six-seater dinghy on the Splash Canyon ride in May 2017 during a trip from Jameah Girls' Academy in Leicester.

The trip had been a reward for pupils' good behaviour and hard work.

A jury of three men and seven women found after deliberating for four-and-a-half hours on Monday that Evha died an "accidental death".

The jury concluded the monitoring of CCTV "did not identify any misbehaviour" by Evha, despite the inquest hearing she had been standing up and "reaching into the water" from the ride, both of which were against the rules, before the circular boat hit a barrier, sending her head-first into the water.

Assistant coroner Margaret Jones said she would write letters to every UK theme park urging them to conduct CCTV training, among other safety requirements.

Stafford Coroner's Court was told the emergency stop button for the ride at the Staffordshire theme park was not pressed after she fell.

Issues with safety measures on the ride, including the CCTV screens being difficult to see and the legibility of safety signs on the boats telling customers to stay in their seats, had been discussed three weeks before the girl drowned, the inquest heard.

Evha, who could not swim, and four friends had boarded the vessel without a teacher after school staff agreed to let the pupils go on the ride alone.

The jury saw CCTV footage which showed the five children boarding the ride before Evha stood up towards the end and then landed in water.

She was seen trying to get out as her school friends shouted back towards her and a visitor who saw her in the water climbed up to the ride's barrier and told her to "stop" where she was.

Evha then tried to climb the "algae-covered" wooden planks on the travellator that carries the dinghies up to the end of the ride, but fell off the side into a 12ft (3.65m) deep pool.

About 11 minutes after staff were alerted to Evha's fall, she was spotted face down in the pool.

Six minutes after that she was pulled out but was described as "lifeless", the inquest heard.

She was given CPR then airlifted to Birmingham Children's Hospital where she died.

A pathologist told the inquest the cause of her death was drowning.

Drayton Manor's lawyer said Splash Canyon would not reopen "in this design" and not until proceedings with the Health and Safety Executive had concluded.

A spokesperson for Drayton Manor Park said: "We would like to express our deep, deep regret for the loss of Evha in what was a tragic accident back in 2017. Our thoughts have remained with her family, friends and everyone affected since that day.

"We thank the jury and coroner for their consideration and would also echo the commendations from the coroner and the ambulance service for our dedicated staff who assisted in the rescue and first aid of Evha.

"As a park and a community, the safety of our guests and staff is absolutely paramount. We will continue to work with the wider theme park community to ensure all lessons are learnt and appropriate action is taken."