Swim coach 'watched out for' pupil who died

Five-year-old allowed to leave pool to go to the toilet alone, against the rules, inquest told

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 5:13am

A young swimming coach claimed yesterday that he had been keeping a close eye out for a five-year-old boy who was found unconscious in the water after asking to go to the toilet.

His pupil, Yeung Hin-laam, was declared dead two days later.

Yeung had been having a one-on-one swimming class with Ma Ngai-hang at Hin Tin pool in Tai Wai, in eastern New Territories.

Ma told the Coroner's Court that he stayed in the pool chatting with another coach while Yeung went to the washroom on June 29, 2012.

"I regularly looked at the entrance to the washroom while I was chatting with another coach and his student," said Ma, who has since given up coaching and is now a full-time university student.

But when he went looking for Yeung 10 minutes later he saw lifeguards rushing towards the boy, who was in the water.

The 21-year-old also told the inquest that students were allowed to swim in the pool only under their coaches' instructions and were not allowed to run in the surrounding area.

He said his students were aged from one to six.

Asked by Coroner June Cheung Tin-ngan why he did not accompany Yeung to the toilet, Ma said Yeung was an obedient boy and more mature than other students.

The boy had nodded when Ma asked him if he could go to the toilet alone, the court heard.

Chui Siu-leung, a lifeguard who was on duty on that day, told the court that he did not see Yeung jumping into or struggling in the water.

"Regrettably, I didn't see how [the incident] took place," said Chui, who has worked as a lifeguard for 16 years.

He said that it was dangerous for children to go to the toilet alone, and the pool's regulations required those under the age of 12 to be accompanied by adults.

It was the first such tragedy at the Hin Tin pool, he added.

The court heard that there were four lifeguards nearby at the time but none of them noticed Yeung until lifeguard Chu Kam-pang was alerted.

Chu said he found Yeung lying face down in the children's pool and dragged him to the edge. Other lifeguards then applied first aid.

Ambulancemen arrived after 10 minutes and took Yeung to the Prince of Wales Hospital where he was certified dead on July 1, 2012. Cheung will direct a five-member jury to deliver its verdict today.