Court hears of family's hot pool tragedy

By Cherie Taylor

Fences erected around dangerous geothermal pools at Kuirau Park to keep visitors safe are constantly being climbed over by people wanting a closer look at the natural features, placing themselves in danger, the Rotorua Coroners Court has heard.

Rotorua District Council parks and recreation manager Garry Page gave evidence at the inquest into the death of Toromon Toromon who fell into a pool at the park on Boxing Day 2010 suffering full thickness burns to 95 per cent of his body.

The 10-year-old Hamilton boy died at Middlemore Hospital four days later from his injuries.

In evidence before coroner Dr Wallace Bain, Mr Page said the pool Toromon fell into had a stone wall around it but many other pools around the park had wooden child-proof fences around them to stop people falling in.

There were some signs around the park warning visitors to stay on tracks and be aware of the dangers.

Since Toromon's death, they had reviewed the area, placed pictorial and internationally recognised signage around the park and wooden fencing around the pool in question, he said.

The court heard, people were ignoring signage and fences and climbing them, putting themselves in danger to get a closer look at the natural features.

Visitors to the park were climbing the rock walls to get a closer look as well as fences, he said.

There was difficulty "balancing' safety and allowing people to see the natural features Rotorua has to offer, Mr Page said.

"We are constantly monitoring things. Our people do everything but if people are deter mined to climb the barriers there is little to stop them ... there is a fine balance. We have to enable people to see and experience it in its natural form.''

If fences were too high and someone did manage to climb and fall in, people wouldn't be able to reach them quickly, he said.

"It's not easy to climb out.''

The sheer volume of natural features and pools throughout the region make it impossible to fence them all, Mr Page said.

Council had fenced off a pool at Whakarewarewa but locals soon broke it down and a child subsequently slipped in and got seriously burned, he told the court.

"They will find a way in if they really want to.''

On the day Toromon suffered his fatal injuries, his family had been out enjoying their Christmas in Rotorua, Rotorua police Detective Sergeant Tony Colby told the court.

After checking out most of the park, the family had lunch before deciding to see more.

As the heading into the park, Toromon and his elder brother, Totira, ran off ahead of them to play.

A few minutes later, Toromon was walking on the rock wall around the pool and fell in.

His 11-year-old brother pulled him out and put him on the grass before going for help.

Photographs provided to police show Toromon and his brother climbing on the wall around the pool earlier in the day.

In evidence, Mr Colby said a witness heard Totira say to his brother "I told you not to jump in there''.

He said at the time of the incident, there were warning signs around the park but some had been vandalised.

Fencing ranged from child proof down to minimal or no fencing.

An investigation determined there was insufficient evidence to establish criminal liability against any person or the Rotorua District Council regarding the boy's "unfortunate'' death.

Dr Bain reserved his finding telling the boy's family who were in court it had been a "lovely family day out until this occurred''.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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