Trust makes changes to supervision after teen drowns in Whitby: inquest latest

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AN NHS trust has tweaked the way youngsters are supervised after the drowning of a teenager in Whitby in its care, an inquest was told on Thursday 05 May.

The death of Samuel James Willis, who was originally from Stockton, prompted an investigation by bosses at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust.

The 17-year-old was found face down in the North Sea off the coast of Whitby, North Yorkshire, in August last year.

He had been one of three young people on a supervised outing from the Roycroft Clinic, in Newcastle, the trust’s medium-security facility for vulnerable teenagers.

Timothy Docking, the trust’s director for planned care, said the death of the youngster, who was known as Sammy, prompted an immediate review, followed by a more detailed investigation.

He told coroner Michael Oakley, as well as members of the jury, that the investigation prompted a number of recommendations for staff.

Key among the changes is that young people in the trust’s care are no longer allowed to paddle or bathe in open water.

The only time youngsters being looked after by the trust are now allowed to swim is in designated swimming pools, where trained lifeguards are present, said Mr Docking.

He said the investigation highlighted “good practice” concerning the planning of activities and added that the ratio of staff to young people on the trip - four carers to three patients - was correct.

Earlier, the inquest had heard from RNLI lifeguard Joshua Jones, who swam out to help the youngsters when they got into difficulty.

He described how a colleague helped get Sammy’s friends - two teenage girls - out of the sea, before attempting to revive the unconscious youngster while waiting for the lifeboat to arrive.

Asked by Mr Oakley whether Sammy responded to emergency aid, which continued both in the lifeboat and at the RNLI station, Mr Jones replied: “No.”

The teenager was subsequently airlifted to hospital, where he was declared dead.

A statement from RNLI lifeboat volunteer Hugh Ramsden was read out, in which he praised the lifeguards’ bravery for not hesitating when going out to sea in challenging conditions.

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict today (Friday 06 May).