Union's dismay at ruling

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Britain's biggest teachers' union has called for a judicial review, after an inquest ruled that a teenager who drowned during an adventure holiday in the Brecon Beacons had been unlawfully killed.

This week, an inquest jury in Neath returned a majority verdict of 7-2 on the death of 16-year-old Herve Bola, who died after jumping into a swollen river during a sports activity course in the Welsh hills. But Gethin Lewis, secretary of the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said: "We find the verdict deeply disturbing and perverse. We cannot believe the jury has come to this decision.

"Adventure holidays give young people the chance to experience new activities and learn new skills. This verdict can only deter teachers, youth workers and others from providing young people with these valuable educational and social opportunities."

Non-swimmer Herve was on a personal development and confidence-building trip, organised by the London borough of Redbridge, in July 2002. During the nine-day inquest, the jury heard that youth worker Daniel Brown had challenged the 13 boys on the trip to jump into a 15-foot rockpool. But Herve panicked and drowned.

Mr Brown told the inquest that he knew Herve could not swim, but denied urging him to jump into the water. He described how he had immediately gone to Herve's aid but had been unable to save the teenager.

"He started to panic, flapping his arms quite vigorously and pushing down on my head to keep himself afloat," he said. "I realised I was getting into quite a lot of trouble myself."

The outing was part of a week-long trip to an outdoor education centre at Glasbury House, Herefordshire. Jeremy Middleton, head of Glasbury House, said there was no specific risk assessment for swimming. But new and existing staff at Glasbury House have an induction in health and safety requirements.

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