Grandfather tells of heartbreaking attempt to revive toddler after pond fall

Doncaster coroner Nicola Mundy
Doncaster coroner Nicola Mundy

An ‘outgoing’ toddler drowned in a garden fishpond whilst his grandfather was tending to his baby sister, an inquest heard.

Oliver Liversidge, aged 15 months, walked past an unlocked child gate and a dining room chair, being used as a barrier at the back door, into the garden.

The youngster then made his way to the pond through a wooden garden gate, believed to have been knocked open by a family dog. Doncaster Coroner’s Court heard grandfather Alan Melia was trying to settle his baby granddaughter when he realised Oliver was missing from the house.

After a frantic search, Mr Melia found his grandson face down in the one metre deep pond near a small waterfall at the property in Fitzwilliam Court, Rawmarsh. Speaking about his desperate attempts to revive Oliver, Mr Melia sobbed: “I knew I’d got to try and bring him back but he wouldn’t come back to me. He was like my little shadow, he followed me everywhere. I loved him so much, he was so cheeky. He was a bundle of joy.”

Oliver’s devastated mum Lisa Briggs said in a satement: “He was a live wire, constantly on the move with an 
outgoing personality.”

Miss Briggs said she had told her dad to ensure doors were shut after the toddler had managed to make his own way into the garden just six weeks earlier.

Miss Briggs’ statement said: “I told my dad to keep the back door shut but he’s very headstrong and stubborn.”

Speaking about the day of the tragedy, she said she had told her dad to shut the back door twice but he told her Oliver wouldn’t go out because he had placed a chair on its side, blocking the exit.

The court heard Oliver was fascinated by fish and Mr Melia had taken his grandson to look at the pond earlier that day.

Mr Melia said he had closed the wooden garden gate on his way back but believes the dog may have knocked it open again.

Speaking about the baby gate and garden gate, Detective Sergeant Peter Hodgson said: “Had they been locked, they would have served as an effective barrier.”

Motion-activated CCTV from a property over the road showed Oliver entering the garden at 3.33pm and what appeared to be the toddler falling into the pond just two minutes later.

It is unclear how long Oliver was in the water as only broken footage was available.

A 999 call was made at 3.49pm after Mr Melia had pulled the youngster from the pond and immediately started carrying out CPR.

Mr Melia had been baby sitting his grandchildren when the incident happened on June 27. Oliver, of Oak Road, Wath-Upon-Dearne was taken to Rotherham General Hospital but despite extensive resuscitation attempts was pronounced dead. The cause of death was recorded as drowning.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Coroner Nicola Mundy said: “I hope this may serve to highlight to others the danger of ponds to children and about the importance of being so meticulous about putting barriers in place to prevent children from gaining unsupervised access to ponds.”