Drowning in Europe
Pharos was notified via its 24/7 incident support line on a Sunday afternoon about a young person who, whilst participating in a water-based adventurous activity, had died suddenly in Europe.
Pharos was notified via its 24/7 incident support line on a Sunday afternoon about a young person who, whilst participating in a water-based adventurous activity, had died suddenly in Europe. The cause was unclear since there were no immediately obvious contributory factors, and the activity appeared to have been delivered safely and in line with good practice. The operator had delivered this activity on this stretch of water for over 20 years.
The young person was only in the water for under a minute and were quickly taken out of the water when it was clear something was wrong. The first aid and emergency services response also appeared to have been excellent with immediate first aid and an air ambulance was on site in under 15 minutes.
Pharos were informed after the young person could not be resuscitated. We assisted by helping the UK-based group tour operator manage the incident and within three hours of notification, had joined the providers’ crisis team and facilitated response planning throughout the evening from their head office location. Priorities were established, including arrangements for parent notification, the welfare of the other young people and staff at the scene. A professional Pharos appointed trauma counsellor was dispatched to the airport overnight in time to catch the first flight the following morning, accompanied by two managers from the tour operator. Pharos’ trauma counsellor met the deceased’s parents at the overseas airport and continued to provide specialist support over the following days during the extremely difficult emotional time and logistical process.
European and UK national media were reporting incorrect facts the following day that suggested serious failings on behalf of our client. Pharos crafted press statements that corrected this misinformation and distributed these proactively to quickly address this misinformation. Concurrently, Pharos drafted other key stakeholder communications and social media responses for the client to use. Statements were aligned with those of other partner organisations and the youth group involved in order to provide a unified account of facts.
Media statements were updated as more facts were confirmed to help clarify the situation. The tour operator’s media spokesperson was mentored by Pharos ahead of press interviews in order to present the most appropriate key messages that represented the care and concern for those affected whilst also evidencing that the situation was in control, and that the facts were being fully investigated. Pharos’ overflow inbound telephone call handling service was placed on standby with scripts prepared to deal with high volumes of inbound calls to the tour operator’s office if this became overwhelming.
Pharos provided valuable logistical support to assist with organising the return of the deceased to the UK as well as ensuring the rest of the group’s discreet return, avoiding the waiting media attention. Pharos’s trauma counsellor continued to provide specialist support for the parents, the other young people on return to the UK, as well as for the staff who provided CPR to the deceased.
It was later confirmed that the young person had a fit in the water caused by an undiagnosed medical issue, which is why they could not be resuscitated.
This tragic case illustrated the need for a swift and professional response to a critical incident. The integration of specialist services such as strategic counsel, media handling, crisis social media, PR and trauma counselling provided the parents, students and staff with the support they needed and deserved. It also helped project the image of a unified approach from the various duty-holding organisations in a way that reflected their real concern to help and respond professionally. These specialist services often take longer to activate by traditional insurance providers and are far more complex to manage using separate organisations rather than Pharos’ integrated and centrally managed approach.
A swift, caring and professional response ensures those involved feel supported. In addition to being the responsible approach for the benefit of all those involved, it also means they will feel less inclined to pursue any kind of legal recrimination. In this scenario, the parents remained very supportive of our client and grateful for their support and encouraged them to continue.