Greater Manchester woman who died in cold water therapy session had unknown heart condition

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A woman who suffered a cardiac arrest in a cold water immersion session died from an undiagnosed heart condition triggered by the water, a coroner has ruled.

Kellie Poole, 39, died during the session in the River Goyt in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, on April 25 2022. The session was run by a company called Breatheolution and had been led by Kevin O’Neill, with Ms Poole taking part with two friends.

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Concluding an inquest into Ms Poole’s death on Wednesday, Peter Nieto, senior coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, said he found no aspect of the running of the session had contributed to her death. But he said he felt it necessary to write to authorities highlighting the lack of regulation covering the activity.

Kellie Poole died on April 25 in 2022, during a therapy session in the River Goyt. (Picture: Facebook)Kellie Poole died on April 25 in 2022, during a therapy session in the River Goyt. (Picture: Facebook)
Kellie Poole died on April 25 in 2022, during a therapy session in the River Goyt. (Picture: Facebook) | Facebook

Recording his conclusion, Mr Nieto said: “Kellie died due to sudden cardiac arrhythmia triggered by immersion in cold water which likely became unsurvivable due to an undiagnosed, pre-existing heart condition.

“It is likely that the cold water triggered her heart to go out of rhythm, which then led her to go into sudden cardiac death.

“It is likely that the heart condition prevented recovery.”

The two-day inquest at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court had heard that Ms Poole, from Droylsden in Tameside, Greater Manchester, had joined the session having never previously complained of health problems.

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She said she had a headache after entering the water before falling forward, with attempts made to revive her after she was pulled from the water. The water temperature on the day of her death was recorded as 10.7C.

Mr Nieto recorded the cause of Ms Poole’s death as sudden cardiac arrhythmic death, caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a thickening of the heart muscles – due to immersion in cold water.

The inquest heard on Tuesday that no waiver forms had been signed before the session, but Mr O’Neill had verbally asked Ms Poole whether she had any existing health conditions.

However, Mr Nieto said that he did not believe a different course of action should have been taken.

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He said: “Kellie had an undiagnosed and in fact completely unknown cardiac condition.

“Mr O’Neill had asked her if she had any heart conditions which would preclude cold water immersion. She was totally unaware.

“I don’t see any reason on the evidence why cold water immersion should not have proceeded.”

The court also heard that cold water immersion activities are unregulated, with no legal requirement for written risk assessments or waiver forms.

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Mr Nieto said that this was a “concern” and that he would issue a Prevention of Future Deaths report to raise the issue after Ms Poole’s mother called for action.

He said: “Specifically, my concern is there is no regulation of people who run cold water immersion sessions and indeed we have heard from the Environmental Health Service that there are no statutory or regulatory requirements on people running these sessions.

“It seems to me that there is a case for it being looked at, whether there can or should be any regulations of these businesses and activities.

“My intention is to make some further inquiries to see who I should write to.

“Whether anything will come of that, I don’t know, but I will raise the issue.”

Mr Nieto closed the hearing by extending his condolences to Ms Poole’s family, who attended the inquest.

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