Children go missing at ‘shambolic’ park fun run

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A children’s fun run which took place in the city last weekend has been branded ‘shambolic’ after a number of kids taking part - some as young as five-years-old - went missing.

A marshal at the Waterside Half Marathon said he was surprised the fun run ‘went ahead at all’ because there was so little organisation.

The two kilometre event was organised by Derry City & Strabane District Council as part of the main event.

The marshal, who does not wish to be named, said “There were no barriers, cones or marshals to make sure the children knew where they were going.”

It’s understood a number of children went missing from the route with some of them running as far as the grounds of Gransha Hospital. The children were all safely reunited with their families.

A spokesperson for the council said it was “aware of an issue relating to the Fun Run which saw a group of children running past one of the turn points in the race resulting in them joining the main half marathon route.”

The spokesperson also apologised “for any inconvenience or upset caused to any of the participants.”

The marshal told the ‘Journal’ he found eight children, aged between five and 13-years-old, at the bottom of Waterfoot Park and they were ‘absolutely terrified.’

“It was shocking and the parents were obviously angry that their children could go missing from the route.

“Grown men were coming up to me with tears in their eyes because they didn’t know where their kids were.

“The event was short staffed, there just weren’t enough marshals and I was embarrassed to be wearing that bib yesterday.

“It was the worst run event I have ever worked at.

“The organisers were panicking when they realised the kids were missing and they were running about, absolutely clueless. The police eventually had to step in and take over because there was no chain of command.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council has confirmed it is to launch an internal review into a weekend fun run which was branded “shambolic.”

A number of children went missing from the course at the family event organised by the council. The children were all eventually reunited with their families.

A spokesperson said: “The Council takes very seriously any issue that affects the enjoyment for children or causes concern to parents at what should have been a fun family event. The Council would like to reassure the public that the issue is currently being investigated as part of an internal review of the event.

“The health and safety of all participants is paramount to Council at all times and it endeavours to ensure that it learns from this moving forward.”

The council also confirmed that the PSNI offered assistance on the day as part of a co-ordinated response-led event control.

A number of parents contacted the ‘Journal’ to raise concerns about the event.

One mother, whose children were among those who went missing, said that anything could have happened to them.

“God only knows who was out that line. The kids were terrified. There was bad communication between the organisers and whoever was supposed to marshalling.”

A father, who had three children taking part in the fun run, said there was no organisation to keep the children safe.

‘They didn’t have marshals, just sent them off into St. Columb’s Park and the children ran straight. How were they supposed to know they were supposed to turn at a certain point?” he asked.

“Two of my children were brought back to the starting line by complete strangers because they were totally lost and didn’t know where they were going.

“The organisers didn’t even know how many children had gone missing. Parents were going out to get their children if they hadn’t returned,” he added.

The father said it was ‘very scary’ and ‘a poorly organised event’ for children.

“This wasn’t free for the kids to enter and we expected a professionally organised and marshalled race.

“Even when they realised there were children missing, the response from the organisers was slow.”

Another father, whose eight-year-old went missing, commented: “As a family we don’t want to see this event stopped because of the benefits it brings. There were problems and issues on Sunday but they can be resolved.

“I have offered to be part of whatever it takes to resolve these issues and make sure it is safer for the kids next year.”