Police refuse to save drowning man due to lack of training

By Rob Parsons

Police officers refused to get into the water to save a man drowning in a London canal because they had not had the right training, an inquest heard.

Unemployed Panayiotis Petrou, 30, died after getting into the Grand Union canal near King’s Cross station while under the influence of the anaesthetic ketamine.

A member of the public alerted police, who found Mr Petrou, originally from Harrow, “splashing around as if in a swimming pool on holiday” and refusing to accept a life ring.

An inquest heard that despite the first officers being alerted at 8pm on April 26, his body was not found until 9.55pm after three emergency services teams ruled it would be too dangerous to enter the canal.

Police Sergeant Philip Orphanides described Mr Petrou as “in his own world” but decided against entering the water because he had not had any official water rescue training.

By the time the Met’s Marine Unit and London Fire Brigade arrived at around 9pm Mr Petrou, who had been intentionally submerging himself, had disappeared beneath the surface and not come up for half an hour.

Firefighter Neil Cash said it was because he was already submerged when they arrived that they ruled against getting into the water and instead set up lights and an inflatable boat.

The Marine Unit used a boat and a “hook” to trawl the bottom of the canal because they were only trained to rescue objects within arm’s reach beneath the surface.

After Mr Petrou’s body was found it was taken to University College London Hospital, where he was pronounced dead after attempts to resuscitate him failed.

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe recorded a verdict of drowning whilst under the influence of ketamine at the inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court.

She said there were some who would say it was “health and safety gone mad” but found that “under the circumstances they did everything that was possible”.

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