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Charity worker who died in Swiss Cottage swimming pool suffered brain haemorrhage

10:00 18 July 2014

Nebiat Tekleab died while swimming in Swiss Cottage

Nebiat Tekleab died while swimming in Swiss Cottage

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A volunteer charity worker who died while swimming in Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre suffered a brain haemorrhage caused by high blood pressure, an inquest has heard.

A post-mortem revealed that Nebiat Tekleab, 60, of Ariel Road, West Hampstead, did not drown on March 18 at the centre in Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage.

The pathologist who carried out the examination, Prof Peter Vanezis, said Ms Tekleab could have collapsed from the bleed on the brain at any time and that her chances of recovery were “very slim”.

CCTV footage played in court showed Ms Tekleab swimming backstroke at about 10.30am before suddenly becoming still.

Lifeguard Michael Wopalenski pulled her from the pool almost immediately after he saw her floating with her arms outstretched while another began breathing checks and CPR.

“Before she was a confident swimmer,” the lifeguard 
remembered. “I first noticed her moving a little towards the shallow end.

“It looked like she was doing a stretch in the water. She was still moving around and kicking her leg, and that caused her to turn three-quarters.

“That was when I saw there was something wrong.”

Shocked centre users watched as paramedics from an air ambulance rushed to save Ms Tekleab’s life, but at 11.20am, all efforts to save her ceased.

St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard on Thursday that two non-cancerous growths in Ms Tekleab’s adrenal glands at the top of her kidneys had elevated her blood pressure, which in turn cased the brain haemorrhage. Type 2 diabetes was also found to be a contributory factor.

Ms Tekleab, who was born in Eritrea in the horn of Africa but grew up in Italy, had gone for tests on the benign growths at the Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, in February and was due for an assessment a year later.

Her nephew Biniam 
Gebrekhristos, who was in court with Ms Tekleab’s sister and cousin, told the Ham&High after the inquest that Ms Tekleab had developed a string of medical conditions after she broke her leg in a serious fall several years ago.

She suffered from severe depression and anxiety and attended psychotherapy sessions, which her GP, Dr Beera Patel, said she found helpful.

Mr Gebrekhristos, 26, of Leeds, said: “She was always happy. She was like a mum to me.”

Senior coroner for inner north London, Mary Hassell, 
returned a verdict of death from natural causes.

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