The tragic drowning of a young Essex man has once again reminded us of the potential dangers posed by hotel swimming pools and the steps that tour operators should take to ensure the safety of holidaymakers.
Shane Virmani, from Ilford, was on holiday in Crete with 11 of his friends, all of whom were staying at the Mirage Studios Complex in Malia. After a night out in the resort to celebrate Shane’s 26th birthday, the group returned to the hotel around 5am, heading to the swimming pool area.
The hotel’s open air swimming pool was open and full of people, some whom were fully dressed and drinking alcohol served to them from the adjoining open air bar. Mr Virmani was pulled into the pool by one of his friends but, unbeknown to his friend, Mr Virmani could not swim and, tragically, drowned.
The pool had no underwater lighting and was not sufficiently lit, so it was not easy to identify anyone if they were underwater.
Under Greek law, the swimming pool should not have been operating at all at that time of night.
A Tour Operator’s Duty of Care
Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, all tour operators are under a duty to exercise reasonable care and skill in selecting and monitoring all accommodation they allocate to customers.
There’s also an implied duty upon tour operators to ensure that hotels comply with all applicable regulatory requirements, comply with all relevant safety standards and that swimming pools are constructed, maintained and operated with reasonable care and skill.
With this in mind, the tour operator in this case, Thomas Cook, should have monitored the Mirage Studios Complex and known that, by operating at night, they were not complying with Greek safety law.
What Greek Law Says
Under Greek law, the Mirage Studios Complex, like all hotels in Greece, is required to comply with certain safety regulations in order to be certified by the Greek Tourism Organisation and thus be lawfully operating as a hotel.
The regulations specify that hotel pools must not operate at night. During the night time, hotel pools in Greece must be enclosed or covered with a safety net, and complete artificial lighting must be installed and be placed in such a way that all areas of the pool, including the underwater area, are well lit.
Also, Greek law says that trained personnel must be present when swimming pools are in operation.
The Mirage Studios Complex are clearly in breach of these regulations in allowing the pool to operate during the night, failing to enclose or put a safety net around the pool and failing to have suitably trained personnel to supervise the pool area.
It’s appalling that the hotel allowed guests to use the swimming pool at a time when there was a greater risk of injury or death due to the consumption of alcohol. Even worse is that they allowed this without anyone being present to supervise guests around the pool area.
If the hotel at least had a lifeguard present, he or she would have spotted Mr Virmani struggling in the water, and his tragic death could have been prevented.
Kieran Mitchell is a Travel and International Litigation Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a team of specialist Travel and International Litigation Solicitors with many years’ experience in helping families whose loved ones have been fatally injured overseas and many people who have been injured in holiday accidents through no fault of their own.
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