Rankin Inquest Breaks Until July
The inquest into the death of 11-year-old drowning victim Shannon Rankin in a Forster resort spa has been adjourned until July, with the conclusion expected to rock the pool and spa industry.
The current hearing’s last day was dominated by evidence from expert engineer Phillip Targett, who inspected the Sevan Apartments spa where Shannon drowned in March 2006 after the underwater filter pump suctioned onto her stomach.
After excavating and scrutinising the spa’s plumbing for the Coroner, Mr Targett said the safety suction pipe was “completely blocked”, concentrating the pump’s power into a single suction point at the bottom of the spa.
When Shannon was pulled onto that suction point, Mr Targett calculated the force holding her down as the equivalent of up to 350kg.
A compulsory vacuum release device was missing from the plumbing, and the build-up blocking the safety pipe seemed to have collected when the area was tiled and pebblecreted.
Earlier evidence from site labourer Brandan Koop identified clutter blocking the pipe as the white cement and blue chips used in the pebblecrete finish applied to the spa and pool.
In Mr Targett’s opinion the safety pipe had always been blocked, so it was clear no-one had ever tested it.
If they had, the blockage would have been discovered straight away.
Earlier in the inquest, Counsel Assisting Coroner Chris Hoy said the oversight raised key questions.
“How could these flaws have gone unchecked?” he said.
“Didn’t anyone turn it on, check there was an alarm, check the flow rates?”
Sevan’s on-site manager David Graham earlier said that even after all the spa’s pumps were turned off, the suction holding Shannon to the bottom remained constant and she could not be freed until the spa was baled with buckets.
By that time, she had drowned.
According to Mr Targett, even if the pipe had been clear of build-up the spa’s defective design and construction would still have gripped Shannon with a “dangerous” 50 to 60kg suction force from the main drain. Two to 6kg of suction was considered “acceptable” for safety purposes.
After nine days hearing evidence at Forster and Taree, the inquest will reconvene July 6 at Glebe Coroner’s Court.
“The Coroner will publish a report [at the inquest’s conclusion] and, I expect, will make a number of significant recommendations,” the Rankin family’s solicitor, Digby Dunn from Stacks the Law Firm, said.
“Those recommendations may encompass the training and licensing of pool and spa builders, certification and pool safety testing.”
Further evidence is expected from industry bodies and A1 Pools and Spas, which built the Sevan pool.