Toddler found dead by dad in lake after wandering off while parents slept

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A baby who woke up while his parents slept and managed to unlock the door of the caravan they were in was found dead in a lake by his heartbroken dad, an inquest head.

Corey James Holland died after multiple attempts of resuscitation both at the site of Lakeside Caravan Park in Winsford and at Leighton Hospital in Crewe, after he was found in the water by his dad Phillip Holland.

At an inquest at Warrington Coroner’s Court on Thursday the court heard how Corey’s mum and dad, Phillip and Kimberley Mackenzie, their other children and a family friend were staying at Phillip’s mum and dad’s – Janet and James Holland – caravan.

In a statement from Phillip, read out by senior coroner for Cheshire Alan Moore, the dad said the family, from Wallasey, Wirral, had arrived at the caravan site on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, CheshireLive reports.

They had all enjoyed dinner and were watching television on a pull-out bed before Phillip put baby Corey to bed in a travel cot.

Phillip said he checked on Corey when he put the older children to bed and said he was “fast asleep”.

He added that usually the 16-month-old would sleep in the same room as him and his partner, however this time the couple fell asleep on the pull out bed in the living room and added he “wished he could change things”.

It was around 8am on August 22, 2019, when Phillip woke up and realised Corey was not in his bed and one of the caravan doors next to the room where the baby was sleeping was slightly ajar.

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Phillip then woke Kimberley up and told her that Corey was not in his bed and the family began frantically searching for him.

The dad said in his statement he asked a woman who was there whether she had seen a baby and she said she had.

Phillip then asked her why she hadn’t got the 16-month-old as he was “just a baby”, in which he said she replied “I don’t know”.

Tragically, Phillip found Corey face up in the water near to a jetty and got him out.

Phillip said in his statement that baby Corey knew how to open the door when it was unlocked, but the family were unaware he knew how to do it when it was locked.

He added he knew the door was locked the night before as he had checked before the couple went to bed.

Evidence was also read out by witnesses who were at the a caravan site who both said they had seen a baby wandering.

One man said he had seen a baby wearing pyjamas walking in between the caravans at around 8.20am but assumed someone was watching him or was there.

At around 8.30am another witness, a resident of the caravan site, said she saw a toddler near to one of the caravans adjacent to the lake but could not tell if it was a boy or girl.

She said she assumed that they were “walking towards someone” or to one of the caravans and said it was “only a couple of seconds” she saw him as she decided to make a cup of tea.

The caravan site resident said she then heard shouting and and saw a man, woman and three other children who were “running in different directions” and appeared to be looking for someone.

She then asked the man if he was looking for someone and he said “yes the baby, the baby” in which she replied that she had seen a baby and he told her “he’s just a baby”.

The woman said in her statement she later heard a man shout “help me, help me” and when she looked out of her kitchen window she could see a man walking up and carrying something on his shoulder.

She said it was then she knew “something terrible had happened’ as the baby did not appear to be moving and she called for an ambulance.

The woman said she was “devastated” to find out later that day the baby had died.

The court heard how a maintenance manager of the site also carried out CPR before an ambulance crew arrived and took over.

At the inquest hearing, James Fowles who is an ambulance paramedic also gave evidence.

He said on August 22, 2019, he was acting as senior paramedic and was in a rapid response vehicle when he arrived at the scene at around 9.12am.

He said an ambulance crew was already in attendance and they arrived at 9.08am and were performing CPR as Corey was in cardiac arrest.

The crew then started performing advanced life support, which includes opening up the airway, giving oxygen and drugs such adrenaline.

Paramedics then decided to take Corey to Leighton Hospital in Crewe, where he was still in cardiac arrest and arrived at 9.32am.

Mr Fowles told the court that there was no rhythm to Corey’s heart in the ambulance and when he arrived at hospital.

Doctors and medics at the hospital then took over resuscitation, however despite their best efforts pronounced Corey dead at 10.14am.

Detective Inspector Stuart York of Cheshire police was also in attendance at today’s inquest and said he found no evidence of third party involvement or suspicious circumstances.

Det Insp York added it was not known whether Corey went into the water out of his own “inquisitiveness” or fell in, as no one had seen him by the water.

He said: “I am satisfied that the evidence pointed to being a tragic accident.”

At the hearing, Corey’s granddad James Holland asked the coroner to clarify whether an on-site defibrillator could have made a difference.

Mr Moore said according to the evidence from paramedics, due to there not being a shock-able heart rhythm for Corey, a defibrillator would not have worked.

Mr Holland added that if there wasn’t a defibrillator on site there “needs to be one” as it is a family caravan park.

He added: “We do not want anyone else to go through what this family has gone through.”

Concluding the inquest, coroner Alan Moore recorded the medical cause of death was “consistent with drowning”.

Mr Moore recorded the conclusion of an accident, and said: “I conclude that Corey died as a result of an accident. A very tragic accident.

“I want to say how incredibly brave you have been today and not just today, as I know you have lived with this for a long time.

“You’re a lovely family and I can see that.”

The coroner said he would also write a report to “the right people” of the caravan park and the local council highlighting what has happened, but emphasised that an inquest has “no power” to change things, but can highlight them.