A water sports park has been fined £80k for health and safety failures after the death of an 11-year-old girl who drowned while swimming at a birthday party.

Kyra Hill was at Liquid Leisure Windsor celebrating a child’s birthday party with her mother when the accident happened on August 6 2022, the court heard. 

After playing on a floating obstacle course, the children had spent the afternoon at the ‘family friendly’ artificial beach and swimming area on the site in Datchet, Berkshire.

Shortly after Kyra - who could not swim well or at all - entered the water at around 3.15pm, she got into trouble and became submerged in the water, which a 17-year-old lifeguard spotted.

Prosecuting, Laura Phillips, said the RSSL qualified lifeguard had ‘received no specific training or instructions’ from the company operating the park.

‘Nobody places any blame at all on the lifeguard’, Ms Phillips said. ‘The lifeguard saw her and tried to assist her but could not find her’.

The court heard the visibility in the water was poor and it was difficult to locate someone who became submerged, which created an ‘entirely foreseeable risk’.

Ms Phillips said Liquid Leisure had no emergency plan in place and so its response to the incident was ‘confused, hampered and wholly ineffective’.

‘The lifeguard had to ask visitors for goggles to help her look’, Ms Phillips said. Some members of the public also suggested Kyra might have left the water. 

Activity carried on as normal in the water for almost 15 further minutes until at 3.33pm when users were asked to leave the swim area.

Staff and visitors carried out a search on land and in the water for Kyra and the emergency services were not called for half an hour.

When fire fighters did arrive at 4.12pm they saw staff and members of the public searching ‘in a chaotic fashion’, the court heard.

Kyra was finally discovered at 5.10pm and declared dead later at Wexham Park Hospital, the prosecutor said.

Defending, Angus Withington said Stuart Marston, a director of the company, was in court and that the company had expressed ‘the very sincerest regret and sadness as to the nature of this accident and the very profound and immeasurable loss that has been suffered by Kyra’s family and friends.’

The company had admitted failing to discharge its health and safety obligations and appeared at Reading Crown Court for sentence.

Mr Withington said: ‘They did endeavour to address the risk and did so successfully in relation to competent swimmers.

‘The difficulty which has properly been highlighted is that in circumstances in which such a person would become fully submerged, the prospect of a rescue would be extremely difficult.’

Mr Withington accepted the company should have required all participants to wear floatation devices in the water, but said that at the time that was not a typical approach being taken by other operators in the industry.

‘The company did not fall far short of the appropriate standards’, Mr Withington added.

Liquid Leisure suffered a ‘significant financial impact’ after it was hit with a 16-month prohibition notice following the incident.

The company now only hosts activities involving boats, cable water boarding and swimming for over 16-year-olds. It has been scaled down from 56 permanent employees to just eight, the court heard.

Judge Heather Norton, sentencing, said the only sign at the beach resort warned of ‘shallow water’, but that the demarcated swimming area actually reached depths of four and a half metres.

‘It was entirely foreseeable a child or even an adult might have been lulled into a false sense of security and made assumptions about the depth of the water until they were out of their depth’, the judge said.

Judge Norton fined the company £80,000 and ordered it to pay £30,000 in costs.