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Fury as water park where 11-year-old girl died is set to reopen inflatable assault course TOMORROW

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A water park where an 11-year-old girl died is set to reopen its inflatable assault course tomorrow despite parents having raised safety concerns up to a year before her death.

Emergency services rushed to Liquid Leisure, near Datchet, Berkshire, at around 3.55pm before the girl, who had been reported missing, was found shortly after 5.10pm. She was taken to Wexham Park Hospital, where she later died.

Police officers remained at the scene on Monday, with the aqua assault course set to reopen on tomorrow morning, according to staff.

That comes despite safety concerns among parents, who almost exactly a year ago flagged their concerns about the water park – only to be offered free tickets to come again.

Melissa Henson, a mother-of-two, said she had a ‘very similar situation’ with her own 11-year-old daughter after she fell between two inflatables – with her head becoming ‘stuck in the water’.

She added: ‘I’m convinced she would have drowned if me and my husband weren’t watching. We brought it to management, who apologised and gave us a voucher to come back. They said: “Sorry about that and we hope you have a better experience next time.”

‘I didn’t really want to return and passed it on to a friend, but I later called them and advised them not to use it because I didn’t think the place was safe.’

‘I was watching the news and thinking: This could have been my daughter. If I was not there and screaming, she would have got trapped. She could have suffocated.

‘I wondered if anything similar might happen to someone else. I was very shaken by it. Thankfully my daughter wasn’t. She knew how scared I was.’

Another mother, who did not want to be named, and whose 13-year-old daughter was at the water park on Saturday when the incident occurred, said when asked whether it was right to reopen the park tomorrow: ‘I think that’s outrageous! Completely inappropriate given what’s happened and the concerns raised.’

Police outside Liquid Leisure in Windsor earlier today, which was closed to the public with flowers laid outside in tribute to the young girl

Tearful staff lay flowers after girl, 11 dies in 'tragic incident' at water park in Berkshire

Tearful staff lay flowers after girl, 11 dies in ‘tragic incident’ at water park in Berkshire

As many as 40 people, including members of the public, are believed to have dived into the water at Liquid Leisure, near Datchet, Berkshire, in a frantic rescue mission on Saturday

As many as 40 people, including members of the public, are believed to have dived into the water at Liquid Leisure, near Datchet, Berkshire, in a frantic rescue mission on Saturday 

Lifeguards were reportedly running all over the obstacles and looking under them. Pictured: Library image

Lifeguards were reportedly running all over the obstacles and looking under them. Pictured: Library image

A witnesses said around 30 to 40 people took part in the frantic 90 minute search for missing Kyra. Witnesses claim they waited for latest 40 minutes before any emergency services arrived on the scene

A witnesses said around 30 to 40 people took part in the frantic 90 minute search for missing Kyra. Witnesses claim they waited for latest 40 minutes before any emergency services arrived on the scene

The tragic incident too place at the lake by Liquid Leisure in Windsor

The tragic incident too place at the lake by Liquid Leisure in Windsor 

Council had been attempting to ‘shut down’ waterpark over planning row 

Earlier this year bosses of the aqua park flagged that they were ‘deeply worried’ that it would have to shut – with 300 jobs at risk – due to a planning row with the council.

According to the Maidenhead Advertiser, Liquid Leisure was served with an enforcement notice in December 2020, requiring the park to remove most of the buildings on the site amid claims they had breached planning rules.

The council say this is because the addition of the water park and its use as a party venue had deviated from its planning permission for water-skiing and windsurfing.

The planning row was set to be subject to a four day inquiry by the planning inspectorate in March this year.

But it was postponed after the inspector, who was due to attend the water park as part of the inquiry, fell ill with Covid.

Stuart Marston, managing director of Liquid Leisure Windsor, said to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service ahead of the hearing that he feared the park could close.

He said: ‘Losing children’s activities that help build confidence in the water with their peers and reducing safe access to water for thousands of residents in the summer months really scares me.

‘With this action from the council, we will no longer be able to train much-needed open water lifeguards in Datchet.’

Sandy Kaur, who visited the water park yesterday morning, said: ‘We go to the lakeside soft play area [part of the Liquid Leisure complex] regularly, but yesterday was the first time we were given wristbands because they said the park was “overbooked and expecting large numbers”.’

It comes as it has emerged that the water park is in the midst of a row with local planning chiefs who say parts of the site, including the aqua assault course, do not have currently have the correct planning permission.

The park, which the council says has permission for water-skiing and windsurfing and not as an ‘aqua theme park’, is currently awaiting a four-day public inquiry over the row.

The inquiry, which could ultimately result in the Total Wipeout-style inflatable course being forced to shut, was due to take place in March. But it was postponed at short notice due to the inspector falling ill with Covid.

Meanwhile, witnesses today recalled how the water park was thrown into ‘chaos’ on Saturday after the 11-year-old girl was reported missing. 

A 41-year-old woman from South Buckinghamshire, who did not want to be named, was at the ‘busy’ water park with her teenage daughter on Saturday, having been several times before. 

The woman said the situation was ‘an absolute tragedy’ for the family and friends of the girl while she and others at the park felt ‘shock’ and ‘helplessness’ at the scene. 

She said: ‘My teenage daughter and her friend got in the water at 3pm for their session. I went off to get a drink and something to eat and then about 3.20pm asked another mum already occupying a bench if I could join her. 

‘I started to try and make my daughter out because she was wearing a wetsuit and not many were, but because of the sheer numbers it was impossible so I just started to watch others. 

‘I quickly noticed not everyone was wearing life jackets and I saw a young female lifeguard closest to where we were sat not paying attention and staring across the open water rather than the people she was meant to be looking at.’

The woman said she began to feel ‘uneasy’ about the ratio of lifeguards to visitors, but added: ‘I reasoned with myself that my daughter and friend had their life jackets on and the session would soon be over.’ 

She said soon afterwards, a lifeguard began to shout and told them to get off the inflatable course. 

She continued: ‘We then realised a child was missing as two frantic women ran past screaming the child’s name. 

‘There seem to be no plan of action with the LL staff. A few lifeguards jumped into the water and started searching in what appeared to be a very non-methodical way. 

‘Another member of staff started asking other members of staff if they were life guard trained. No one appeared to be in charge and there was no co-ordination in managing the situation. 

‘For the adults and children left on the riverside we didn’t know what to do, there was no communication and no evacuation procedure. 

‘There is one small entrance and exit at LL and the emergency services arrived quickly and in huge numbers, they couldn’t have done more. 

‘But because we weren’t told what to do and didn’t want to block their efforts of coming in to the park we just stood by and witnessed the search and rescue divers looking in the water. 

‘Afterwards my daughter commented that she didn’t feel safe on the inflatable, there were areas which had deflated and gaps between obstacles which anyone could have easily slipped down leaving them underneath the inflatable.’

The woman said her daughter had attended a safety briefing beforehand and said she was told not to push in people they did not know, not to use abusive language and that a whistle would be blown 10 minutes before the end and a second whistle would be blown when the session was finished.

The victim was at the site to take part in the aqua assault course with friends for a birthday party.

As many as 40 people, including members of the public, are believed to have dived into the water as part of a frantic rescue mission.

Police are now investigating the death of the girl, named by witnesses as Kyra, which is currently being treated as unexplained.  

Another visitor also shared their concerns via Twitter. TV producer Neil Garrett said he visited with his family ‘a few weeks ago’ and had ‘issues’ with the amount of people allowed on the course at one time.

He wrote: ‘Took my kids to Liquid Leisure in Windsor a few weeks ago. Fair to say the place has some issues, the main one being how many people they allow on the floating obstacle course each session. Felt like 200-250 people. That’s a lot for the lifeguards to keep an eye on.

‘Second was some seriously antisocial behaviour by groups of lads. Everyone was ordered off at one point in our session because a group had pushed a lifeguard in. If yobs like this are occupying the lifeguards’ attention, how are they watching out for younger guests?

‘The overcrowding makes it very easy for parents to get separated from their kids. This is compounded by there being relatively few places to get back on the course if you fall in. Had to swim a long way to find one, meaning I’d be away from my 12-year-old for minutes at a time.’

He added: ‘All in all, this poor girl’s death at Liquid Leisure was a tragedy waiting to happen. Appalling.’

Another regular visitor, who witnessed Saturday’s tragic events, told MailOnline how they had been to the water park ‘several times’ before, but noticed it was ‘busier’ than usual. 

She said: ‘My teenage daughter and her friend got in the water at 3pm for their session. 

‘I started to try and make my daughter out because she was wearing a wetsuit and not many were, but because of the sheer numbers it was impossible so I just started to watch others.

‘I quickly noticed not everyone was wearing life jackets and I saw a young female lifeguard closest to where we were sat not paying attention and staring across the open water rather than the people she was meant to be looking at.

‘At this point I became uneasy, it didn’t feel safe and the number of young lifeguards to the ratio of people felt out of proportion.

‘I reasoned with myself that my daughter & friend had their life jackets on and the session would soon be over. Although I felt it was an accident waiting to happen.’

Staff at the waterpark lay flowers following the death of an 11-year-old girl at the site in Berkshire on Saturday

Staff at the waterpark lay flowers following the death of an 11-year-old girl at the site in Berkshire on Saturday

Witnesses say lifeguards started pulling apart the inflatable equipment, including parts of the nearby Ninja Warrior obstacle course, after '20 minutes' in a bid to find the missing girl. Pictured: The park is currently closed while police investigate

Witnesses say lifeguards started pulling apart the inflatable equipment, including parts of the nearby Ninja Warrior obstacle course, after ’20 minutes’ in a bid to find the missing girl. Pictured: The park is currently closed while police investigate

Emergency services were called at around 3.55pm on Saturday to reports of the child getting into difficulty at Liquid Leisure near Datchet. Pictured: The site at Liquid Leisure

Emergency services were called at around 3.55pm on Saturday to reports of the child getting into difficulty at Liquid Leisure near Datchet. Pictured: The site at Liquid Leisure

Mother whose daughter attended the same water park last year said she raised safety concerns 

A mother whose 11-year-old daughter attended the water park last year said she raised safety concerns more than 12-months ago.

Melissa Henson, a mother-of-two, said her daughter fell between two inflatables, with her head stuck in the water as she got wedged by her life jacket, ‘almost a year to the day’.

She told MailOnline: ‘I’m convinced she would have drowned if me and my husband weren’t watching.

‘We brought it to management, who apologised and gave us a voucher to come back.

They said: ‘Sorry about that and we hope you have a better experience next time.’

‘I didn’t really want to return and passed it on to a friend, but I later called them and advised them not to use it because I didn’t think the place was safe.’

Speaking about Saturday’s tragedy, she said: ‘I was watching the news and thinking: This could have been my daughter.

‘I wondered if anything similar might happen to someone else.

‘I was very shaken by it. Thankfully my daughter wasn’t. She knew how scared I was.

‘The lifeguards were all youngsters, they were not anywhere to be seen’

Earlier this year bosses of the aqua park flagged that they were ‘deeply worried’ that it would have to shut – with 300 jobs at risk – due to a planning row with the council.

According to the Maidenhead Advertiser, Liquid Leisure was served with an enforcement notice in December 2020, requiring the park to remove most of the buildings on the site amid claims they had breached planning rules.

The council say this is because the addition of the water park and its use as a party venue had deviated from its planning permission for water-skiing and windsurfing.

The planning row was set to be subject to a four day inquiry by the planning inspectorate in March this year.

But it was postponed after the inspector, who was due to attend the water park as part of the inquiry, fell ill with Covid.

Stuart Marston, managing director of Liquid Leisure Windsor, said to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service ahead of the hearing that he feared the park could close.

He said: ‘Losing children’s activities that help build confidence in the water with their peers and reducing safe access to water for thousands of residents in the summer months really scares me.

‘With this action from the council, we will no longer be able to train much-needed open water lifeguards in Datchet.’

Asked if the site was in breach of planning rules, a spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead said: ‘The onus is on sites and developers to follow planning controls and ensure they have the relevant consents or authorisation for planned works.

‘Regarding Liquid Leisure, the council issued an enforcement notice in December 2020 because the Council consider that a material change of use had occurred without planning permission, from water-skiing and windsurfing use, to mixed use that comprises an aqua theme park, caravan and camping site, party venue and a child’s play centre facilitated by extensive unauthorised works in the Green Belt, a Flood Zone and Local Wildlife Site. 

‘We’ve previously invited Liquid Leisure to regularise their position by making a planning application for a reduced scale enterprise which would reduce the harm that has been identified, however the business is appealing against our enforcement notice.’ 

MailOnline has approached Liquid Leisure for a comment. 

The victim, named by witnesses as Kyra, was supposed to be on the Total Wipeout-style challenge with around ten friends for an hour-long session at 3pm on Saturday when the tragedy occured. The fun turned to terror after the mother of one of the children started screaming her name at around 3.40pm.

It is believed her panic was sparked after Kyra did not return from the inflatable session – in which participants are provided with lifejackets – prompting parents and staff to start searching changing rooms at the facility.

Some children suggested to staff that Kyra could not swim and was last seen ‘going underwater’ and ‘not returning to the surface’, sparking a frantic 90 minute search involving around 30 to 40 people.

Witnesses claim they waited for latest 40 minutes before any emergency services arrived on the scene. 

It comes as witnesses claimed how lifeguards started pulling apart the inflatable equipment, including parts of the nearby Ninja Warrior obstacle course, after 20 minutes in a bid to find the missing girl.

Others claimed how panicked staff asked customers for goggles so they could look for missing Kyra underwater. 

Witnesses yesterday slammed the water park for an alleged lack of an emergency plan and said teenage lifeguards were ‘not prepared’ to deal with the tragedy. 

Others said how there were a ‘ridiculous amount of people on the inflatables’ – which are pre-booked in 50 minute slots – before the tragedy struck.

Another claimed how staff at the park told them on Saturday that they were ‘overbooked and expecting large numbers’ over the weekend. 

James Bull, 25, was among the visitors who tried to find Kyra. ‘It was a complete shambles,’ he told the Mail.

‘I saw the lady shouting for Kyra, then I bumped into a couple of young girls who said they were Kyra’s friends.

‘They showed me a picture and said she was in a black swimsuit and grey footwear. They said she can’t swim and was struggling – then she went under.’

‘There should also be a limit on the number of people in the pool area,’ he added. ‘How could they not see her go under? 

‘Why didn’t they have goggles or diving equipment? There were more adults and parents in the water looking for her than lifeguards, it was a complete joke.’

A 32-year-old mother-of-two, who was also at the park on Saturday, said: ‘There didn’t seem to be a single adult in charge. It was horrendous.   

‘One of the lifeguards said he didn’t want to get in because he didn’t want to get his trainers wet. 

‘Some were screaming to get goggles. I can’t begin to tell you how poorly dealt with it was. The mother was queuing with her friends for the main inflatable course when the woman came over and said she had lost a child. 

‘It was surreal. It just got more and more serious, and the place got more and more silent.

‘As a mum, seeing that, you just can’t even begin to imagine what she was going through. It was so horrendous. I am just honestly so angry. There didn’t seem to be an emergency plan.’

Another witness added: ‘Lifeguards were running all over the obstacles and looking under them. They were dismantling the Ninja Warrior (inflatable obstacle course), near the beach looking for her.  Staff actually started asking customers for goggles to look for her underwater.’ 

Another witness told Sky News: ‘It’s a really busy place and there are a lot of people but after about 15 minutes it just went totally silent. I can’t even describe the tension that built up.

‘In the space of a few minutes when they cleared the inflatables and they got all the staff on them, that’s when it became apparent something was really wrong.’

She has criticised the park and said: ‘There was no emergency plan. They did not have any tannoy system or any alarm.’

Another witness told Sky News: 'It's a really busy place and there are a lot of people but after about 15 minutes it just went totally silent. I can't even describe the tension that built up.'

Another witness told Sky News: ‘It’s a really busy place and there are a lot of people but after about 15 minutes it just went totally silent. I can’t even describe the tension that built up.’ 

Two rescue helicopters were deployed in a bid to search for the girl, who went missing on Saturday

Two rescue helicopters were deployed in a bid to search for the girl, who went missing on Saturday

A witness said the girl was seen going under the water and said that she 'didn't come back up...At that point, the lifeguards came running.'

A witness said the girl was seen going under the water and said that she ‘didn’t come back up…At that point, the lifeguards came running.’

Others described how dozens of members of the public joined in the search and rescue operation.

One witness, a 34-year-old woman, who lives outside Reading and was at the park with her sons on Saturday, told ITV: ‘They (friends and family of the girl) were asking all of us to shout her name, describing her as shoulder height on an adult, with shoulder-length brown hair.

‘There was one lady in particular who was either her mum or someone close to her, that was in swimwear and was visibly shaking and crying whilst shouting for her.

‘As the situation unfolded, with every minute that passed by you could see the rising panic amongst the onlookers.’

She also praised the work of lifeguards during the rescue efforts.  The woman said: ‘The lifeguards were truly amazing.

‘I reckon there were probably around 30-40 people in the water – a mix of what appeared to be staff and public.’ 

Witnesses said there were between 30 and 50 children on the assault course when Kyra went missing.

The park’s birthday party packages include a 50-minute session on the aqua park, wetsuit hire and food and drink for £27 per person.

The park also offers stag and hen parties – where customers drink at the facility’s licensed bar after their session.

The lake is up to six metres deep in parts – dangerous for non-swimmers. Gavin Springett, who worked at the park last summer on training, said: ‘No corners were ever cut on safety.’

He said there were lifeguards on every section of the inflatable course, and that staff are trained monthly on water rescue while buoyancy vests are compulsory on all inflatables, even for adults.

The gates to the leisure park were shut this morning, with numerous 'CLOSED' signs placed

The gates to the leisure park were shut this morning, with numerous ‘CLOSED’ signs placed

Flowers have been left at the scene where the 11-year-old girl died on Saturday, following an incident at the water park

Flowers have been left at the scene where the 11-year-old girl died on Saturday, following an incident at the water park

People yesterday visited the water park to put flowers outside the gates of the facility, which is currently closed

People yesterday visited the water park to put flowers outside the gates of the facility, which is currently closed 

Meanwhile, customers or their parents are asked to sign a waiver on their behalf clarifying that those taking part are ‘competent swimmers’ who are ‘confident in deep open water’ and have a ‘reasonable level of fitness’.

It also asks participants to accept that there is ‘an element of danger and risk of physical or emotional injury’ involved in taking part in the course.

Alongside the standard aqua park, which is open to children as young as six but recommended for those aged 10 and over, there is a ‘junior’ aqua park for children aged 4-9. 

The country’s first Ninja Warrior Aqua Park, based on the hit ITV assault course show by the same name, also opened in May.

Last night, Superintendent Michael Greenwood of Thames Valley Police commended parents who jumped into the lake for their bravery.

Customers or their parents are asked to sign a waiver on their behalf clarifying that those taking part are 'competent swimmers' who are 'confident in deep open water' and have a 'reasonable level of fitness'

Customers or their parents are asked to sign a waiver on their behalf clarifying that those taking part are ‘competent swimmers’ who are ‘confident in deep open water’ and have a ‘reasonable level of fitness’

Customers or their parents are asked to sign a waiver prior to them taking part in the aqua park

The waiver also asks participants to accept that there is 'an element of danger and risk of physical or emotional injury' involved in taking part in the course

The waiver also asks participants to accept that there is ‘an element of danger and risk of physical or emotional injury’ involved in taking part in the course.

Stuart Marston (pictured), managing director of Liquid Leisure Windsor, said to the BBC's Local Democracy Reporting Service ahead of a planning hearing earlier this year that he feared the park might have to close due to a row with the council over planning permission

Stuart Marston (pictured), managing director of Liquid Leisure Windsor, said to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service ahead of a planning hearing earlier this year that he feared the park might have to close due to a row with the council over planning permission

He said: ‘This has been an extremely traumatic and upsetting incident for all involved.

‘I am aware that several members of the public entered the lake shortly after the girl got into difficulty, but were unable to locate her. I would like to commend them for their courage and bravery.’ 

In a statement, Liquid Leisure said they would assist police, adding: ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and all those affected by this desperately tragic and upsetting incident.

‘As Thames Valley police are in the early stages of an investigation it would not be right for us to add further comment, but we will continue to fully support and assist them throughout the process.’ 

Liquid Leisure is owned by Stuart Marston. According to the company’s website, Mr Marston is a ‘multiple national and international champion in towed water sports, who has led Team GB athletes to numerous successes’.

Mr Marston ‘started his journey in getting more people active by way of his passion for water sports’ after his company took over the the Datchet water sports venue in 2002, the website adds.

  • Were you at Liquid Leisure water park on Saturday and saw the incident? Please email: tips@dailymail.com 
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