Child drowning triggers coroner’s pool fence warning


Friends set up a Givealittle page after Te Ariki Lee drowned in December 2019.

Give a little

Friends set up a Givealittle page after Te Ariki Lee drowned in December 2019.

The drowning of a 14-month-old boy in a backyard prompted the coroner to warn people to fence off temporary pools.

Coroner Matthew Bates said Te Ariki Lee’s death in Christchurch in December 2019 was a “very sad reminder of the dangers of leaving young people unattended around bodies of water.”

The child drowned after entering a temporary plastic pool in the backyard.

The coroner said no one saw Te Ariki enter the pool, but he likely drowned after using a nearby easel to climb the steps.

* One-year-old boy dies on Christmas Eve after drowning in Christchurch

The 14-month-old boy was playing in the backyard on December 22, 2019, when his mother, Leanne Monk, entered inside. When she returned five minutes later, she could no longer hear her son playing.

“Once back outside, Ms. Monk looked towards the pool and thought she saw one of her daughter’s dolls floating in the water,” the coroner said.

“When she approached, she realized it was Te Ariki. He was floating, face down on the ground.

She pulled her son out of the water and found that he was cold and unresponsive. After 45 minutes of CPR, Te Ariki regained a heartbeat and was taken to the intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital.

An MRI revealed no brain activity and Te Ariki was removed from the resuscitation system on December 24, 2019. He died that day.


Water Safety NZ General Manager Jonty Mills talks about the summer water safety campaign. (First published on December 17, 2020)

The coroner used his report as “an opportunity to remind the public of the requirements set out in the Construction Act 2004”.

He said the law required any swimming pool with water deeper than 40 centimeters to be surrounded by a physical barrier that would prevent access to children under 5.

“Pool owners and owners of the property where the pools are located must ensure this rule is followed,” he wrote.

“It appears that in this case there has been some confusion regarding the fencing requirements for non-permanent pools, like the one at Te Ariki’s house.”

The pool where Te Ariki died was not fenced and her mother was unaware it was a legal requirement, the coroner said.

Christchurch City Council investigated the incident and assessed whether the building law had been broken.

“Although it was established that the provisions of the Building Act had been violated, no enforcement action against Ms Monk was recommended, in recognition of the immense loss suffered by Ms Monk and the whānau in the wider.”


About Author

Comments are closed.