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TRAGIC DROWNING CAUGHT ON CAMERA.

Byline: ROBERT WESTHEAD

THE last horrific minutes of a boy who drowned after sneaking into a closed swimming pool were captured on security cameras, it emerged yesterday.

Video footage from the unmanned cameras shows non-swimmer Joshua Lakirham, seven, struggling in vain for his life in the school pool.

Yesterday his distraught family called for tighter security at schools to prevent more tragedies this summer.

Joshua died at St Nicholas School, Surrey, on Friday.

Police said that the video tapes showed Joshua leaving his clothes in a pile at the poolside before jumping in at the deep end in his trunks and immediately getting into difficulties.

His nine-year-old friend is seen trying to rescue him using a pole with a loop, failing and then running to raise the alarm.

Joshua's stepfather David Carpenter said the ``energetic'' and ``happy-golucky'' child could not swim and had been rescued only days earlier by a lifeguard in a narrow escape on a trip to a local leisure centre pool.

Mr Carpenter, a 64-year-old postman, said: ``I hope this is a warning to other parents. Keep them away from water if they can't swim.

``Kids just rush away and disappear. There's nothing you can do.

``They rush off and disappear and their mothers and fathers never know where they are - and in four minutes they're dead.''

Joshua had moved to the village only seven months ago from Guyana after Mr Carpenter fell in love with the boy's mother Irene, 38.

Irene was said to be ``coping'', with Joshua's brother, 18, and sister, 16, at their end of terrace house in Mansfield Drive, Merstham.

Mr Carpenter, who recently married Joshua's mother, said that his ``lovely'' stepson adored cricket and riding his bike.

He called for tighter security to prevent such tragedies happening again at schools closed during the summer holidays.

``I think it was the first time he had ever been down there. But when the school is closed the pool becomes an attraction for kids to go in there.

``Why wasn't it drained? They had fencing around it, but kids can easily climb it. If kids can climb, they can get in.

``If there's an accident there's no-one (no lifeguard) in there to watch.''

Caretaker Brian Atkins, 58, said that the 25 metre pool - which has a deep end of two metres - became a ``magnet'' for local children when the residential special needs school was closed in the holidays. Mr Atkins, who patrols the pool every day, added: ``I'm chucking kids out at least twice a week. They go over the fence all the time.''

Headmaster John Walker, 56, said that the pool, which is surrounded by a 6ft high chain linked fence, is padlocked but it did not deter local children.

He added: ``I'm deeply shocked and my condolences go to the family. It's a tragedy.''

A childcare officer, who lives at the school, had got out of the pool after a swim, he said, unaware that minutes later the children sneaked in.

He later found Joshua, who was a pupil at Furzefield Primary School in the village, floating in the water.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton said: ``Within minutes he got into difficulties.

``His friend made some effort to save him with a pole with a loop on the end and then went to raise the alarm with his mother.''

The victim was rushed by ambulance to the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill but was pronounced dead on arrival.

A post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of death as drowning.

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POOL DEATH: Joshua Lakirham
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 4, 2002
Words:591
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