A grieving Stroud mum says her teenage son’s tragic death from drowning at a Vietnamese beach hostel was due to ‘neglect’ by staff and a ‘dangerous’ swimming pool.
There was also a very slow response from the local ambulance service, which took more than an hour to arrive and was not properly equipped, an inquest into the death of 19-year-old Matthew Finn Cook was told.
Matthew, of Kites Nest Lane, Stroud, was with six friends in a back packing holiday in Vietnam when he died on May 22 this year.
He and the others were at a poolside drinking party alongside the pool at Hostel Ninhvana, in the coastal area of Nha Trang, in the early hours of the morning when it is believed he slipped, fractured his skull and fell into the water where he drowned.
The Gloucester inquest was told that a UK pathologist found the cause of death to be alcohol intoxication leading to head injury and drowning.
Matthew’s mother Karen Cook told the inquest she travelled to Vietnam the following day to investigate the tragedy for herself and to arrange repatriation of her son’s body.
The post mortem in this country was carried out on June 16 and included a CT scan which showed he had suffered a skull fracture causing concussion. It was concluded he probably hit his head on the side of the pool when he fell in while ‘messing around’ at about 3am.
The toxicology report carried out as part of post mortem tests clearly showed he would have been drunk at the time.
One of Matthew’s six travelling friends, first year student Toby Williams, said in a statement that they were all ‘playing sports and drinking and messing around by the pool that night.
He said when he went to bed Matthew was still there. He heard a ‘commotion,’ went back and saw Matthew lying on the ground with people giving him CPR, he stated.
An ambulance was called but it took a long time to arrive – more than an hour, added Toby.
It was poorly equipped and there was no attempt by paramedics to give CPR, he said.
Matthew’s mother said her enquiries at the hostel revealed that the tragedy happened at 3am, the pool was still open, as was the bar, and staff were still serving drinks and drinking themselves.
She said there were no lifeguards, the lighting was poor, and security was ‘lax.’
She took photos of the pool for the coroner and they showed the poolside was slippery and there was a ‘dangerous edge’.
“There was poor management and a culture of encouraging guests to drink into the small hours of the morning,” said Mrs Cooke.
“My son’s death resulted from the negligent behaviour of the staff and a dangerous pool.”
In a statement, she and her husband Peter, said: “Our son was a fun loving young man enjoying travelling until he had this tragic accident. We are all devastated to lose him in the prime of his life.”
The assistant Gloucestershire coroner Roland Wooderson recorded a narrative conclusion saying: “The deceased at the time of his death was with friends in Vietnam. In the early hours of May 22 2019, the deceased and his friends were drinking alcohol provided by the swimming pool bar at the hostel Ninhvana.
“He was then found unresponsive in the said swimming pool, whereupon persons present attempted emergency first aid.
“Paramedics were summoned and arrived some considerable period of time later. Friends present at the scene believe that the deceased may have slipped, tried to get out of the pool and consequently hit his head, rendering him unconscious.”