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Coroner to write to all UK theme parks after schoolgirl death on rapids ride

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Evha Jannath died after she was ‘propelled’ from the Splash Canyon ride at Drayton Manor in 2017.

Evha Jannath

A coroner has said she will write to all UK theme parks urging them to conduct CCTV training following the death of a schoolgirl who drowned after she fell from a theme park’s river rapids ride.

Evha Jannath was “propelled” from a six-seater vessel on Splash Canyon at Drayton Manor on May 9 2017, while on an end-of-year school trip with staff and friends from Jameah Girls Academy in Leicester.

In a statement released at the conclusion of the inquest, the 11-year-old’s family said they “entrusted” their daughter’s safety to the school on what should have been a “fun school trip”.

They also said they were “very upset” to learn that nobody knew how to rescue Evha from the water and that there was no life-saving equipment available.

A jury concluded that the monitoring of CCTV “did not identify any misbehaviour” of the youngster, despite the inquest hearing she had been standing up and “reaching into the water”.

The theme park told the coroner the ride would not reopen “in the current format” and until it had the consent of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Stafford Coroner’s Court was told that the emergency stop button for the ride was not pressed despite Evha’s fall.

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Evha and four friends had boarded the vessel without a teacher after school staff agreed to the pupils’ request to go on the ride unaccompanied.

The schoolgirl’s family said in a statement: “On what was every parents’ worst nightmare, we sent Evha, who had only just turned 11, on what should have been a fun school trip with her friends to Drayton Manor Theme Park. She never came home.

“We entrusted Evha’s care and safety to the school and to Drayton Manor.

“It has become apparent that Evha was not supervised on the Splash Canyon Ride as it went down the rapids.

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Drayton Manor Theme Park incident
Evha Jannath was a pupil at Jameah Girls Academy in Leicester (Matthew Cooper/PA)

“Teachers were on a different boat, a long way back and while Drayton Manor said the ride was supervised from the CCTV cabin, no member of staff saw Evha fall into the water. Tragically it was 10 minutes before any member of staff found Evha in the water.

“We have been very upset to learn that Drayton Manor had no life-saving equipment on the ride and no one knew how to rescue Evha.

“We would like to thank the coroner for the recommendations she is making as to the safety of this and similar rides in the hope that no other family will have to go through what we have had to endure.

“We miss our daughter, sister and niece every day. Evha was a bright and happy young girl who had great hopes for the future.  Sadly, we will not be able to see her realise her dreams.”

Speaking on behalf of the theme park, Jim Sturman QC said: “The ride will currently not reopen in this design.

“The ride will not reopen until proceedings with the Health and Safety Executive have concluded.

“It will not reopen without the express consent of the HSE.”

Speaking about the letter she intended to write, assistant coroner Margaret Jones said: “It will be addressed to the park and all other parks and it will cover CCTV training, using the PA and all things you might expect the letter to contain.”

Police at Drayton Manor Theme Park after an incident
Police at Drayton Manor Theme Park after the incident (Richard Vernalls/PA)

She also expressed her condolences to Evha’s brother and uncle, who attended court on Monday.

The inquest at Stafford’s County Buildings was told how Evha – who was unable to swim – initially fell into water up to her thighs.

Appearing uninjured, she was then shown on CCTV wading along the edge of the ride route, towards the exit platform, trying to get back to her friends.

Her schoolmates were shouting back towards Evha, while another member of the public standing at the ride course’s barrier a few feet above told her to “stop” where she was.

The youngster carried on wading and then attempted to climb the ride’s “travelator”, which lifts the ride vessels up out of the water, to an exit platform.

But as she climbed the “algae-covered” wooden planks on the mechanism, she fell off the side into a “much deeper” area of water at the park in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

Some 11 minutes after staff were alerted, Evha was spotted “face down”. It was another six minutes before theme park staff were able to pull her out, when she was described as “lifeless”.

Returning a conclusion of accidental death after four-and-a-half hours of deliberations, the jury panel of three men and seven women said in their findings: “There was no opportunity to rewind the CCTV footage.

“The monitoring of the CCTV did not identify any misbehaviour. The sign at the entrance for the ride does not tell passengers to sit.”

The jury said the sign did however say the ride was “bumpy”.

A statement from Jameah Girls Academy said: “The conclusion of the inquest into Evha’s tragic death has given us some insight into the circumstances by which she so sadly lost her life.

“Our hearts go out to Evha’s family, and we hope that this inquest has given them some closure, as well as our school children and staff.

“As a school we will continue to honour Evha’s memory and continue to support our school community with the warmth and care they deserve.”

A spokesperson for Drayton Manor Park said: “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.”

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