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Nine-month-old Eleanor Atkinson drowned in the bath of Fairmile Road home after mum collapsed, Bournemouth Coroners' Court hears

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A NINE-MONTH-OLD baby drowned in the bath in a "tragic accident" after her mother fainted or collapsed at their Christchurch home, an inquest heard.

Louise Atkinson was lifting little Eleanor out of the water when she suddenly lost consciousness due to the combination of sleep deprivation, anxiousness over the baby's forthcoming operation and the effects of having had the Covid jab the previous day.

Bournemouth Coroners' Court heard Louise passed out, possibly for more than 40 minutes, before her husband James returned to their Fairmile Road home after a dentist’s appointment, forced his way into the bathroom and discovered Eleanor face down in the water.

The inquest was held at Bournemouth Coroners' Court
The inquest was held at Bournemouth Coroners' Court

He roused his wife, phoned paramedics and started CPR on Eleanor. She was rushed by air ambulance to hospital but despite the best efforts of medics, died later that afternoon.

The hearing was told Louise was giving Eleanor a bath at around 10.30am on 23rd March 2021. She was due to have a heart operation at Southampton General Hospital on March 24th. Before having surgery Eleanor needed a surgical wash to help prevent her contracting MRSA.

It was explained at the inquest that Eleanor was born prematurely at 33 weeks and suffered numerous problems during her short life which required regular hospital visits.

Mainly, Eleanor had trouble taking in food during her four feeds a day, which would take up to three hours a time, and her parents used a gastric tube to help her.

She was also often sick while feeding and struggled to put on weight after being born; concerned medics had lined up two operations designed to help her feed and gain weight, the first being the heart op.

Eleanor’s problems also meant she suffered with reflux that caused her head and neck to jerk, and when that began to happen during her bath that day, Louise went to lift her out.

"All I remember is that I started to pick her up," an emotional Louise told the inquest. Asked by coroner Brendan Allen what she next remembered, she replied: "James shouting."

James told the inquest he went to Bournemouth for a dentist appointment but could hear nothing when he returned home, and the bathroom door was closed, which was "unusual".

He struggled to open the door since Louise had fallen with her head against it and was out cold. "When I did [manage to get it open] that’s when I saw Lou on the floor and Eleanor in the bath."

James said he got Eleanor out of the water, “grabbed” his wife, who started to rouse, and "dragged" her back, before placing his daughter on the floor and carrying out CPR.

Louise said she had the AstraZeneca Covid jab on 22nd March and that "looking back" she felt tired afterwards.

She'd also had little sleep the night before, waking at between "3am and 4am", as she was anxious about Eleanor’s upcoming operation and Covid-19 tests she and her husband were due to take. Prior to the bath, she had been on the phone with hospital staff trying to arrange the tests, the inquest heard.

Louise told the inquest that, weeks later, she fainted while visiting her daughter’s grave after having had her second Covid jab.

DS Phil Read said police found no suspicious circumstances and had concluded it was a "tragic accident".

A post-mortem said Eleanor died of water inhalation.

Coroner Brendan Allen ruled Eleanor’s death was accidental, adding: "The view of the police is this was a tragic accident; there is no evidence to point to any other explanation, and I share that view."

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