A CORONER has recommended a local council look to re-shape a CBD creek and urgently install signage warning of the drowning dangers in the wake of a three-year-old’s death.
Coroner Michael Holmes handed down his findings on Friday into the drowning of a three-year-old Bangladeshi girl who died after falling into the creek in Curtis Park, sometimes referred to as the Creeklands, in Armidale on September 11, 2016.
Mr Holmes found the three-year-old, whose named has been suppressed by the court, drowned in the freshwater creek after accidentally falling.
In his findings handed down in Armidale Coroner’s Court, Mr Holmes expressed his “sincere sympathy to both parents” and acknowledged the inquest into their only child’s death was “too distressful for them” to participate.
Curtis Park, behind Hungry Jacks, is “very popular” and extensively used, the court heard, and on the day in question, the father and child had been at a large gathering of the Armidale Bangladeshi community.
The creek is approximately three metres wide with varying depths and is obstructed by reeds in some areas with a sudden drop, and the child disappeared for “five to 10 minutes” before her father frantically searched for her.
The court was told the father walked along the edge of the creek in search of his daughter and found her “floating face down in the creek unconscious”.
“He pulled the child out of the water and made attempts to revive her,” Mr Holmes said.
“He was joined by members of the community who assisted with CPR.”
Mr Holmes acknowledged that detailed submissions from legal counsel for the council showed council “would prefer to remove the playgrounds from the current locations rather than fence the areas”.
“Fencing of the relatively small play areas should be considered; family restaurants fence their children’s play areas to enhance safety,” he said in his findings.
“One can only wonder what the community might think of the removal of the playgrounds.
One can only wonder what the community might think of the removal of the playgrounds ... These are popular areas, and always will remain so, even if the playground equipment is moved.Coroner Michael Holmes
“These are popular areas, and always will remain so, even if the playground equipment is moved.”
Mr Holmes said the central location of Curtis Park meant it would continue to attract visitors and locals.
“What remains is still the creek and it will remain a hazard in its current form together with general park presentation,” he said.
He made two recommendations to the Minister for Local Government, for Armidale Regional Council to carry out further preventative measures with regard to cost, community safety and flood impacts.
“Consideration should be given to re-shaping the creek banks in an effort to reduce drop-offs and to increase the general visibility [of the creek],” he said.
He recommended “council should undertake urgent works to clear the revetment-walled channel of the creek of reeds, rushes and vegetation”.
He has also recommended that council “erect appropriate universal signage alerting the users of Curtis Park of potential drowning hazards caused by the Dumaresq Creek”.
“This should be undertaken as a matter of some urgency,” he said.
“That council consider long-term preventative measures taking into account the central locality of Curtis Park and its popularity.”
The inquest was earlier told the council was considering a whole new re-design for a playground and park in Armidale.
The family had been living in Armidale while the mother studied at university and the father worked, but had travelled back to Bangladesh in the wake of the tragedy.
The inquest was earlier told the child was “healthy, intelligent child who was never sick”. She did not know how to swim and was not familiar with water but “was known to like ducks and would regularly chase ducks when taken to the park by her parents”.
Mr Holmes acknowledged the University of New England had now established a program where swimming courses were made available to international families attending the UNE.
Mr Holmes also commended the officer-in-charge, Detective Senior Constable Travis Murdock, for the investigation, which he said “was one of a very high standard” and included a video walk-through of the park from a three-year-old’s perspective, and thanked him for liaising directly with the family throughout the investigation and inquest.