A female lifeguard who believed an eight-year-old boy floating face-down in front of her was “messing about” has been cleared of allowing his death.
Kelly Woods, 31, was charged with failing to protect pool users after Suraj Mall died at the leisure centre on February 10, 2008.
A two week trial heard Woods had been chatting to a customer for 15 minutes at Wolverhampton Swimming and Fitness Centre when the youngster got into difficulty.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard Suraj had been floating face-down in the water for a minute-and-a-half but Woods believed he was “messing about”.
By the time she realised he was in trouble and dived in to save him, it was too late and he was later pronounced dead at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital.
Woods was charged with failing to properly supervise pool users and went on trial on April 16.
She said that although her conversation with customer Barry King only lasted a couple of minutes, she admitted she should have kept her eyes on the pool rather than looking away.
But a jury of seven men and four women returned a unanimous not guilty verdict after four and a half hours of deliberation on Tuesday.
Woods wept as the verdict was read out.
Judge Amjad Nawaz told her: “In so far as the past five years are concerned, I hope you are able to put it behind you and get on with your life.
“This verdict is no reflection on anybody at all.
“The Mall family have conducted themselves with exceptional courage and grace throughout.”
Amy Kalay, from the Health and Safety Executive, who brought the case against Ms Woods, said: “However disappointed we are with the verdict, this prosecution will reiterate to lifeguards, leisure centres and pool owners worldwide of the importance of constant vigilance when looking after swimmers in their care.”
Paying tribute to her son mother Lajla Kaur said: “He was the light of all our lives, now he’s gone we will always feel that emptiness inside.
“This is something we have to live with forever.
“Suraj and his sisters used to attend swimming lessons regularly every week.
“Now, since the accident everything changed, we have not gone to the pool since.
“Suraj will never be forgotten, his laughter will echo through our hearts forever.”
Woods refused to comment outside court.
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