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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Drowned pupil 'could not swim'
Gemma Carter
Gemma Carter was a pupil at Cockburn High School in Leeds

A 13-year-old girl who drowned in the sea during a school trip to France could not swim, an inquest has heard.

Gemma Carter was one of 44 pupils from Cockburn High School, Beeston, Leeds, who visited Le Touquet in northern France in June 1999.

The inquest in Leeds heard how she was separated from a group of children who ran into the sea - despite shouts from their teacher Mark Duckworth to come back.

The teenager's body was found a few hours later after she failed to return to the hotel.

Her mother Sharon Carter told the inquest she had sent a letter to the school three days before the trip warning that her daughter could not swim.

She said when she received the itinerary for the trip to France she noticed it made reference to a visit to a swimming pool.

It sort of felt like there were two currents. One pulled one way, while the other pulled the other
Pupil Kay-Lee Ann Asquith

"I sent a letter to the school saying she couldn't swim and would they just keep an eye on her," she said.

"I had no idea she was going to natural waters."

Simon Jackson QC, who is representing the local authority, suggested to Mrs Carter her daughter had taken swimming lessons and had obtained a Dolphin II swimming badge.

"She never brought any certificates home," said Mrs Carter, who visited the Le Touquet two years ago.

A classmate of Gemma's told the inquest how on the second evening of the trip a group of pupils asked the teachers if they could go swimming.

They were accompanied by teacher Mark Duckworth down to the beach and some began wading into the water, the jury was told.

Pupil Kay-Lee Ann Asquith, 16, said she became frightened as the current began to pull her out to sea.

Sharon Carter
Sharon Carter visited Le Touquet two years ago

She said: "It sort of felt like there were two currents. One pulled one way, while the other pulled the other.

She told the inquest she recalled seeing Gemma in the water up to her waist.

She remembered "larking about" with Gemma and some other friends but she could not recall what happened to Gemma as she had to "concentrate to get out."

The teenager recalled Mr Duckworth telling the children to get out of the water.

Earlier the teacher had warned the youngsters not to paddle out too far.

The inquest is expected to last two weeks.

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