River Lea drowning: Witnesses critical of rescue effort to save Hackney teen Jack Susianta
PUBLISHED: 08:19 21 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:19 21 April 2016
Witnesses who saw a teenager drown in the River Lea after being chased by police in the midst of an ecstasy-fuelled breakdown have claimed officers could have done more to save him.
An inquest into the death of Jack Susianta, 17, heard he returned from festival Secret Garden Party in July last year “over emotional”, “nervous and agitated” after taking MDMA daily while there.
Two days later he “karate kicked” a hole in a window and fled his home in London Fields.
His mother Anna Susianta called police who chased him as he ran into the River Lea near the Kingshead Bridge in Lea Bridge Road, Walthamstow.
With the help of a Polish interpretor, Kamila Grabowska told jurors at St Pancras Coroner’s Court yesterday how police officers threw a ring to Jack a couple times which “he didn’t want to take”, and for a while it seemed to her as though Jack was able to stand in the river.
But then he was “submerging and emerging in the water, there were bubbles,” and it wasn’t until five minutes after he submerged for the last time that police had entered the water.
She told Coroner Mary Hassell Jack had jumped in the river because he had “no other way to go”.
“I was in shock, there was a boy who was dying and no one helped him,” she added.
Another witness, Fred McGruer, who lives on a barge near to where Jack drowned, described how he saw a crowd of “100 or so” people and wondered why no one was going in to save Jack.
“There had been muggings, and sexual assaults on the marshes, some people were assuming he was the perpetrator, and the police weren’t going in because he was dangerous,” he said.
“There were so many uniformed professionals there so you leave it up to them, you would be interfering otherwise,” he said when a juror asked why no one from the public tried to save Jack themselves.
“If people said it’s a 17-year-old boy with mental health problems rather than a dangerous rapist, it would have been hard to stop the public going in,” added the mental health nurse.
He continued: “It’s difficult to be critical of individuals, but I find myself being critical of the system.
“The whole incident escalated very quickly, and waves and waves of people were arriving, there seemed to be a lack of co-ordination.
“There was an officer willing to go in and that should have been identified sooner.”
Mr McGruer described how Jack would swim away every time officers threw him a float.
“It was clear in my mind that he didn’t want to be rescued,” he said.
“I felt that it would have been easy for him to swim to the side if he had wanted to. He was a strong swimmer and capable of keeping himself afloat.
“Each time he came up he would float about and would then make himself sink, it’s hard to say whether it was intentional.”
The inquest continues.
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