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Parents of hot pool victim in NZ call for raised fences - young Kiribati boy dies

Published: 11:24AM Sunday January 02, 2011 Source: NZPA

Parents of hot pool victim call for raised fences (Source: NZPA)

The parents of a boy who received fatal burns after falling into a Rotorua hot pool on Boxing Day have called for fences to be raised at a popular geothermal park.

Falaile Toromon and Tamantea Toromon want greater safety measures to be introduced at Kuirau Park, where their 10-year-old son, Toromon, fell into a 100degC pool.

He died of severe burns in Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on Thursday.

Through a Kiribati community elder the boy's parents told the Herald on Sunday they had taken Toromon and his 11-year-old brother Totira to the park for a family picnic.

After lunch, the brothers ran off to play, out of sight of their parents.

Toromon jumped over a fence and slipped into the pool. His brother Totira climbed over the fence and pulled him onto grass nearby.

The Toromons want fences raised at the park to prevent a similar tragedy.

But although the pools have claimed lives before, they have become much safer, Rotorua District Council parks and recreation manager Garry Page said.

Kuirau Park is the most popular free geothermal park in central Rotorua and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year.

Page, who has worked in Rotorua for 30 years, said he could remember between six and eight deaths during that time.

"Initially when the park was first developed there was no fencing whatsoever."

"But over the years we have improved the fencing around all the pools."

Page said the council and police still were not sure which pool the boy fell into.

But he said all the pools had a fence of at least 1.2 metres around it and it required some effort to get over the fence.

There are numerous warning signs, both in words and in graphic representation.

The latter are used as numerous visitors, including the Toromon family, speak little or no English.

Most of the deaths were people who were taking their own lives, Page said.

There had been one such death two years ago but he could not remember when the last accidental death was.

Page said there were regular issues with signs being taken - some had been removed since news broke of the Boxing Day incident - but the safety record was good given that about 250,000 people a year visited the park.

Page said inspections had been carried out after the incident and the council was satisfied that the park was safe.

"Our hot pools are well fenced off and people just can't stumble into them."

Rotorua's National MP has said visitors should make sure they are aware of the dangers of geothermal areas.

Todd McClay said that while the boy's death was a tragedy, the district council took safety around the hot pools very seriously.

He said the council may need to have another look at the park to make sure it is as safe as it can be.

Police are investigating the death as the statutory agent of the coroner.

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