A schoolboy left catastrophically brain-damaged after he slipped under the water unnoticed in a Northampton swimming pool is now battling for up to £5 million compensation.
The boy, now in his late teens, “nearly drowned” as he swam in the pool with his father and family, his QC, Bill Braithwaite, told London’s High Court.
“He was rescued by a swimmer but sadly he sustained extremely severe brain damage”, the barrister told Judge Sir Colin Mackay.
“Our case is that he was under water for about two minutes 40 seconds and that failure by the lifeguards to see him during that time is clear evidence of negligence,” he added.
The teengager, who cannot be identified because of his vulnerability, is now suing Northampton Borough Council for massive damages.
His legal team claims bathers at Northampton’s Danes Camp pool on the day of the 2002 tragedy were not properly monitored.
The council denies liability, however, insisting that staff did their best in difficult conditions when the pool was crowded.
Mr Braithwaite said the council did not plan to call any of the lifeguards on duty when the youngster came to grief.
Susan Rodway QC, for the council, said that many of the lifeguards from that time had simply “disappeared” - several of them being New Zealanders or Australians.
However, some of them had previously spoken of having to deal with “unruly boys in the deep end” around the time of the near-drowning.
The court will also hear evidence that the swimmer who rescued the boy had “difficulty attracting the attention of a lifeguard”, said Mr Braithwaite.
Part of the incident was captured on CCTV, the court heard.
And the council’s lawyers say that the footage suggests that the boy was “frequently well out of reach and far away from his father and totally unsupervised”.
At times the boy is said to have been “completely out of his father’s sight”.
Mr Braithwaite did not dispute that, but told the judge: “We submit ...that the lifeguards should have been aware of a potential problem as a result.
“They wouldn’t have known who his father was, but would have been able to see that he was unaccompanied.”
The High Court hearing, expected to last five days, continues.