Tragedy of girl's sudden death

A nine-year old girl collapsed and died while at a school swimming lesson moments after completing a width of the pool without armbands or a float for the first time. Jade Johnstone, a Year 4 pupil at Lyncrest Primary School, Duston, Northampton, had gone to the Duston School with her classmates or a swimming lesson on the morning of Monday January 28, 2008.

The youngster, from Duston Road, Northampton, had been a non-swimmer when she started classes in September 2007 and was determined to complete a width of the pool unaided as part of a school certificate.

At an inquest held at Northampton General Hospital yesterday, a statement by teacher Sue Wallace was read out in which she described watching Jade as she swam and then fell ill. She said: “Jade was swimming across the pool without armbands. She completed her 10m and was smiling at me. I put both my thumbs up at her and said “Well done, that was brilliant.” I glanced away and she lying back with her legs towards me. I said: “This isn’t right, let’s get her out.”

School governor Lesley Loveland had also been at the swimming pool when the tragedy happened. In her statement she said: “Jade was holding onto the side of the pool. The next thing her head slumped back and she let go of the side. I said ‘Are you alright?,” her eyes rolled and I said “She’s not alright.” Jade was pulled from the pool. Paramedics arrived on scene but were unable to resuscitate her.

Dr Charles Padfield, a consultant in foetal and neonatal pathology at the Queen’s Medical Centre, carried out the post mortem on Jade. He said: “I am convinced she didn’t drown. “Her heart was normal. At the end of the day I think the most accurate diagnosis, or as near as we could get, is sudden cardiac death syndrome which a morphologically normal heart. There was no ongoing disease in her other organs that could have accounted for any death like this.

Addressing Jade’s parents, John and Jan, Dr Padfield added: “Magnificently, you donated for research in teaching. thank you very much.

Recording a verdict of death by natural causes, which were heart-related, deputy coroner Rodney Haig said: “It’s one of those things that just happens occasionally for no explicable reason. I give you my sympathies.

A memorial day was held in August, which raised about £2,000 for Cardiac Risk in the Young, and an outdoor stage was installed at Lyncrest Primary School by Jade’s classmates.