Published: 14:24, 30 April 2013
A mum is urging families to be extra vigilant after her two-year-old son had a lucky escape at a Kent wildlife park.
Kaileigh Parrish was terrified when little Cody managed to squeeze through a hedge by a fence in the family picnic area at Howletts near Canterbury - and ended up in the middle of a tarpaulin that was covering water by a sign warning reading ‘Danger - Deep Water’.
Ms Parrish, 26, from Manston, believes stricter safety measures need to be in place - but Howletts stress that safety is paramount for them and this is the only incident of its type in their grounds.
Ms Parrish, of Musgrave Close, was with friends and other children when her eldest son, six-year-old Jayden, raised the alarm.
Pictured right, she said: “Jayden came running up to me and said Cody has got through the gate.
“I ran over and saw a sign on the gate that said Danger - Deep Water and I climbed over the gate, shouting his name.
“I heard him scream and ran around a big bush to find him out standing on a cover in the middle of a big pool, sinking in water which had come up to his knees.
“I fell onto my knees at the edge of the water and coaxed him over, saying ‘Walk to mummy’. He made it over and collapsed into my arms, shaking and crying.
“His bottom half was soaking wet so I stripped off his trousers, took off my jumper and wrapped it around him.
“I picked him up and took him to where the gate and mesh fence were and there was a gap between the fence and hedge that he was able to get back through while I climbed over the gate.”
She reported what had happened to a staff member at the park’s restaurant and returned home to get Cody warm and dry.
The following day she emailed the wildlife park to express her concerns about safety at the picnic site but she is unhappy with the response to her mail, which told her that the area had been inspected and there was no problem with the measures already in place.
She said: “If they think it is OK as it is and the area has been left the same way then I’m worried it could happen again and another child might not be so lucky.
“I’m so glad Jayden was there and was able to warn me.
“Cody has only been swimming a couple of times and if he had fallen over on the way back, he might have fallen in completely and the water was absolutely freezing.
“I think families need to be extra-vigilant when visiting there in future.”
Howletts spokesman Amanda McCabe said: “We have replied directly via email to Ms Parish and our health and safety officer has inspected the area, where we believe her son got into the private garden.
"Within this hedged fence line there is a pedestrian gate which is bolted on the inside of the gate and also marked by a sign stating ‘Danger – Deep Water’.
“The gate has a panel of weld mesh either side. Access must have been gained by pushing through this part of the hedge row to enter the private garden area.
"This hedged fence line with a secured gate has been sufficient to deter children or adults from climbing through or under to this private area in the past and this is the only incident where a visitor has been able to enter the private garden from the picnic area.
“We have over 250,000 visitors to Howletts each year and we are always looking at ways to ensure that our visitors have a safe and enjoyable visit and will look at the barrier in place to see if it can be improved in any way to ensure there are no more incidents of this type.”
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