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Coroner releases findings into Echuca toddler’s death

Coroner David Cottrill has released his findings into the death of an Echuca toddler in 2010.

June 17, 2014 3:01am

A coroner has released his findings into the death of an Echuca toddler who drowned in Gunbower Creek in 2010 and has found the boy was being well supervised at the time.

Coroner David Cottrill released his findings regarding the death of Joshua James Moore, 3, on Friday.

Mr Cottrill said while it was his role to establish the cause of death, it was not his job to apport blame.

He said, tragically, it was necessary for coroners to make recommendations regarding drowning deaths, in particular toddlers, who had no appreciation of danger.

The findings found that on October 1, 2010, Joshua’s mother Kerrie-Anne Michelle Falkingham was visited by friend Sandie Young and her son, also aged 3.

The mothers agreed that Ms Young would take Joshua for the night so the boys could be taken to Gunbower races the following day and use the jumping castle.

The findings stated Ms Young and her partner Brett Llewellyn lived on Dormoyle Rd, next to to Gunbower Creek.

On October 2, Joshua and Ms Young’s son woke before 9am and left the house via a back door.

The findings said it was likely that a plastic toy box was used by the children to stand on, to reach the door handle.

The pair took a small ride-on toy down to the creek and Joshua entered the creek near a pump shed.

He found himself out of depth and subsequently drowned, the findings stated.

An inquest into Joshua’s death was held in November 2012.

Although there was no formal diagnosis, Ms Falkingham said she believed Joshua may have suffered from an intellectual disability and did not believe he had any understanding of water danger.

She said his condition was not unlike autism.

The findings said while intellectual disabilities like autism were associated with an increased risk of drowning, it was not possible to conclude this was a contributing factor in Joshua’s death.

Mr Cottrill said he was satisfied that the two young boys were being well supervised and cared for.

He said Joshua’s death was preventable had there been an awareness of the potential for the children to head towards Gunbower Creek.

Mr Cottrill said in this instance the carers were sleeping and suggested it may have been appropriate to lock or alarm the back door.

The Coroners’ Prevention Unit Surveillance Database showed that from January 2000 to July 2012, four children drowned in rural creeks.

Mr Cottrill also outlined a study from 2002, Unintentional Drowning: Toddlers in Dams in Victoria 1989-2001 and a follow-up study in 2005, which highlighted toddlers to be unpredictable, oblivious to hazards, able to quickly and quietly disappear, often unable to swim and not prone to heeding warnings.

The report suggested keeping young children in a secure and interesting play area, to ensure they were always supervised, to cover or fence water hazards and for carers to learn first aid.

Mr Cottrill said the process of education was important and that the 2005 report should be continued, adopted and modified.

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