A 17-year-old disabled boy who died in hospital after hitting a staff member at a swimming pool near Newcastle reportedly died of self-inflicted head injuries.
It’s understood the ‘stocky’ teenager, who was with his carer at the time, was pinned to the ground by up to eight grown men after he threw a punch at a lifeguard.
One witness, a mother named Robyn, said the ‘distressed’ boy was growling and hissing on the ground before shouting: ‘You’re hurting me’.
‘They put him down on the ground with quite a bit of force. He was still trying to lift his head up, he kept shaking his head and hitting it on the ground,’ she said.
Paramedics arrived at the busy public pool in Lambton just after 5pm on Tuesday and treated the boy, who had gone into cardiac arrest, at the scene.
He was rushed to John Hunter Hospital but was pronounced dead a short time later.
According to Robyn, who was watching on in horror from the stands as her daughter continued her swimming lesson, the entire incident lasted more than half an hour.
She said the disabled boy started throwing cones and signs into the pool after getting into an argument with a boy in the water.
When a male lifeguard, aged in his late 20s, ran across to intervene – things ‘started to get out of hand’.
‘The boy went into the disabled toilet and started banging at the door… then he came out and punched a glass window, cracking it all,’ Robyn said.
‘Then he threw punches at the lifeguard.’
At that point up to eight parents who were watching the incident unfold jumped on top of the boy and brought him roughly to the concrete floor.
‘There were seven or eight big men, they grabbed him and got him down on the ground with quite a bit of force,’ Robyn said.
By the time emergency services arrived, the boy was reportedly ‘hyperventilating’ and continuing to ‘kick at’ the men restraining him.
‘The ambulance crew turned up, I saw the needle and they sedated him,’ Robyn said.
‘The next thing we saw him go still. That’s when they started resuscitating, and got everyone out of the pool and into the back.’
The swimming centre was placed in lockdown and close to 100 traumatised kids were taken out of the pool as paramedics desperately tried to resuscitate the boy.
‘They were working on that poor boy for 15 to 20 minutes trying to resuscitate him,’ Robyn said.
Newcastle Council, which owns the pool but leases it out to private company Lane 4 Aquatics, released a statement on Wednesday.
‘Late yesterday afternoon a 17-year-old boy and his carer were visiting Lambton Pool. The boy began causing harm to himself and the surrounding property.’
‘His carer, with this assistance of passers-by, restrained the boy to prevent him doing further harm to himself.
‘During the incident the boy had a medical episode and subsequently required CPR.
‘Emergency services attended the scene however he was unable to be resuscitated.
‘We express our deepest sympathies to the family.’
More than one employee was injured during the assault and had to be treated by paramedics at the scene, according to reports.
A Lane 4 Aquatics Centre employee said the staff members were ‘all okay’ but refused to make any further comment.
NSW Police has launched a critical investigation into the circumstances around the death of the teenager.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Lambton Swimming Pool said they would re-open the pool at 9am on Wednesday after the ‘small disruption’.
‘Lambton Pool will reopen today (18th October) at 9:00am,’ the statement read.
‘We appreciate the patience and understanding for the small disruption.’
In an updated post, the pool described the incident as a ‘tragedy’.
‘Our condolences go out to the families involved. We appreciate there is a lot of speculation however it is important to remember it was a tragic day for all involved.’