Last year William Corben drowned in his neighbour’s pool on the Gold Coast. While a compliant pool barrier had been erected, the pool gate had been propped open. This enabled William access to the pool and ultimately led to his death.
Queensland deputy coroner John Lock handed down his inquest findings in February, after investigating the drowning. He found that the pool fence gate was deliberately propped open and that the death was preventable. He wants the Queensland Government to consider introducing new criminal laws for people who intentionally breach pool safety regulations.
He said the propping open of pool fences was a bad practice and needed to be stopped. He also referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on a possible offence relating to leaving a child under 12 unattended.
William’s mother, Hayley Corben, said the family wanted his death investigated to raise awareness of the dangers surrounding deliberate breaches to pool safety barriers so other families can avoid walking the same daily nightmare that they do.
“These barriers, these gates are there for a reason and if there’s a preventable death on your property that is caused by your action or inaction, there also may be consequences,” said Jason Jacobson, the lawyer acting for the family.
The NSW Study of Drowning and Near Drowning in Children (0-16) found that 22% of children 0-4 who had a near drowning in a backyard pool gained access to swimming pool through a propped-open gate.
Katherine Plint, the chief executive officer of Hannah’s Foundation, told the ABC that in Queensland alone, every death since 2013 has been an issue of a propped open pool gate, including non-fatal drownings.