Rugby tour tragedy: British coroner’s inquest hears that student’s death at Shawnigan Lake was ‘tragic accident’

Rugby tour tragedy: British coroner's inquest hears that student's death at Shawnigan Lake was 'tragic accident'

WATCH: In the summer of 2015, a British teen died in Shawnigan Lake while touring Vancouver Island with his team.  A British coroner’s inquest is now underway to determine what happened. Mary Griffin reports.

Shortly after the drowning death of 17-year-old Abdul Jamal Ottun on July 15, 2015 in Shawnigan Lake, his friends dedicated a video to him.

The British student died while on a rugby trip to Vancouver Island. His death is currently the subject of a coroner’s inquest in Britain.  The inquest heard a friend pushed Ottun into the water off the dock owned by Shawnigan Lake School, where the team was staying.  They were preparing for their game against a local Cowichan’s rugby club.

Shawnigan Lake School headmaster David Robertson said the team from England’s Wallington County Grammar School were preparing for games against Vancouver Island teams.  “The boys were hot after practicing on the rugby pitch all afternoon. So they came down here to the lake,” Robertson said. “They were out on the dock, playing around when one of Jamal’s friends pushed him into the water.  They thought everything was fine. And even spoke with him. But it became apparent a short time later something was seriously wrong.”

The signs at Shawnigan Lake School’s boathouse and docks are clear; no swimming without lifeguards. Robertson says the British rugby coaches were instructed to watch their students in the water.  Robertson said the British coaches were told to watch their players in the water. “The person who showed them around, I know said, that if you want to swim you’ll need to have your own lifeguard.”

The British inquest heard two coaches were with the 25 rugby players. But the coroner said with one coach swimming, and the other taking photos, it was not enough to keep the students safe and that their coach Dus Sotoriou should have been supervising the boys.  With Shawnigan Lake School closed due to summer holidays, Robertson happened to be home when the drowning occurred.

“And I was with my grandsons at the house over here, in my T-shirt and flip-flops, and about to go for a bike ride. And this panicked gentleman arrived, and says to me, ‘can you help? Can you help? We’ve lost one of our kids. And I said, what do you mean you’ve lost him?  And he said, well, he went in swimming and we can’t find him,'” Robertson recalled.

Despite the efforts of emergency personnel, Ottun could not be saved.  A B.C. Coroner’s investigation determined Ottun’s death as an accidental drowning, and made no recommendations.
The British inquest is continuing.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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