THREE young British tourists who plunged to their deaths in a Vietnam waterfall were not properly warned of the dangers ahead after they went down a water-sliding attraction, a coroner has ruled.
Sisters Izzy Squire, 19, and Beth Anderson, 24, died with friend Christian Sloan, 24, as they took part in a popular guided day trip in the Dalanla waterfalls area of the south-east Asian country in February 2016.
Coroner Chris Dorries heard how Miss Squire and Miss Anderson, both from Sheffield, and Mr Sloan, from Deal, Kent, wore life jackets and helmets as they slid head first down a natural water slide before ending up in a 6ft deep pool.
But, instead of exiting the pool, the trio disappeared over the next tier of the river complex and died when they went over a 50ft high waterfall.
The inquest heard how their guide, Dang Van Si, claimed that he warned them about how to get out of the pool safely, but this was contradicted by a range of witnesses, who were found through a Facebook appeal by Mr Sloan’s family.
Today, the coroner said he did not accept Mr Van Si’s account and ruled that he had either not given a warning at all or not ensured it was properly understood.
Mr Dorries told Sheffield Coroner’s Court: ‘I am clear on the balance of probabilities of the fact that this compromised the safety of the group.’
Giving a narrative conclusion, he said: ‘They had chosen the tour with care and with a conservative view as to risk.’
The coroner said: ‘They were not adequately warned of the risks to be found at the bottom of the slide and, in particular, that there was a potentially lethal hazard of a further waterfall which they could be swept in from only 14metres further on.
‘Nor, on the balance of probabilities, were they properly supervised whilst in the area at the bottom of the water slide.’
Mr Dorries said that, contrary to reports at the time, the three travellers had done nothing to compromise their own safety.
He told the court: ‘I was disturbed to hear from the families that, in the period following the deaths, the uninformed chose to make a number of allegations that the trio acted unwisely. That may not be a sufficiently forceful word.
‘Let me be clear from the outset, there is no evidence at all that such was the case.’
The coroner said the tour had been booked with a recognised agency and Miss Anderson had been reassured by the booking office that it was not a very adventurous activity.
Mr Dorries said: ‘I am satisfied that there was a careful and conservative approach by the group to the choice of tour and to their own actions that day.’
The sisters’ parents David Squire and Tracy Dodd attended court with their daughter Molly.
Mr Sloan’s parents Eugene and Lesley also attended, along with a number of members of their family.
Speaking outside the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield, Mr Squire said: ‘It’s now been confirmed what we, as families, have known all along.
‘Christian, Beth and Izzy were completely innocent and lost their lives through no fault of their own.
‘Instead, a series of individual failings and persistent breaches of Vietnamese laws and regulations led to our children’s untimely deaths.
‘To be clear, the events and circumstances that led to their deaths were wholly preventable.’
Mr Squire said he did not know how the criminal investigation into the deaths was progressing in Vietnam and said the communication between the Foreign Office and the Vietnamese authorities ‘leaves a lot to be desired’.
He said his family had ‘lived and breathed unimaginable sorrow, pain and heartbreak’ in the past ‘three devastating years’.
Mr Squire said: ‘Part of our hearts and souls and our very being died with Beth and Izzy on that inexplicably awful February Friday.’
He said: ‘They will be forever just 19 and 24 and forever young.’