Feb 23

Man drowned in shallow lake after firefighters ‘not allowed’ to rescue him

By Ben QuinnFirefighters said they could not enter the water for health and safety reasons

Charity shop worker died in Gosport, Hampshire, after rescuers said they could not enter water for health and safety reasons

Firefighters said they could not enter the water for health and safety reasons. Photograph: Alamy

A man who fell into a lake drowned after firefighters called to the scene said they could not enter the water if it was higher than ankle deep for health and safety reasons, an inquest has been told.

Simon Burgess, a 41-year-old charity shop worker died at Walpole Park, in Gosport, Hampshire, on 10 March. He is believed to have had an epileptic seizure either before or after falling into the water while feeding swans.

Witnesses raised the alarm, but the hearing was told on Tuesday that members of a fire crew refused to get to him because the water was more than ankle deep. Instead, they waited for a specialist water rescue team and Burgess was only taken out of the lake 28 minutes after the alarm was raised.

Gillian Hughes, 53, told the inquest, at Portsmouth coroners court, that she had phoned emergency services and urged them to rescue Burgess when they arrived. She said: “The firemen arrived with the police, and I said: ‘He’s only been there five or 10 minutes, so if you hurry you might save him.’

“He just said: ‘We’re not allowed’, and I said: ‘But that’s your job.’

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