Parents describe “outrageous” incident.
Five primary school children were abandoned in an empty Leisure centre late on Saturday evening, with staff locking up and disappearing to a pre-planned barbeque.
The petrified youngsters had been changing after a swimming session at the Live Active Leisure centre, Perthshire, when the lights were turned off and a strange beeping noise sounded, which it later emerged was the burglar alarm being set.
Anxious parents stood helpless outside the Blairgowrie complex with Tracie Barrie, mother of Emma and Caitlin, trying and failing to pull the doors open. She then called 999 for police assistance but officers who arrived at the scene were also unable to access the building.
Mrs Barrie said: “I pulled up and saw them at the glass door. I had been painting all day and I didn’t want to get out of the car so I waved them over.
“They were gesturing to me, but I couldn’t work out what they were saying. When I got out I could hear the alarm at I could see that Emma was getting really distressed.”
The building was in complete darkness as the group made their way to the front door. They were then trapped in the foyer area as an automatic door locked behind them.
The girls tried the only other exit from the foyer, which led to another pitch black corridor. They stumbled to a door but this was also locked and they were forced to turn back.
Neil Stewart, father of 11-year-old victim Emily, told of the panic when the girls were trapped and described the incident as “absolutely outrageous!”
“They were in the changing room when they heard a strange noise, which they later found out was someone setting the burglar alarm and locking up for the night,” said Mr Stewart.
“None of the children had phones so they couldn’t call for help. They actually had to breathe through the crack between the two main doors because the air was getting thin and the temperature was rising.”
Mandy MacGregor, who arrived slightly later to collect her daughters Erin and Molly, described the scene on her arrival, with the police already in attendance.
“When I got there I saw the police car outside and there was two officers standing by the doors,” said Mrs MacGregor.
“Then I saw the girls behind the glass. No one could find anyone who had a set of keys. It took a lot of asking around to find out that the staff were at a barbeque at someone’s house.”
After tracking down the whereabouts of the centre staff, the individual who is believed to have locked the doors returned to open them.
Mrs MacGregor added: “He was telling us that he had checked inside before he locked up but he obviously couldn’t have looked very hard. It took nearly an hour to get the girls out.”
Mr Stewart said: “Live Active shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this. It could quite easily have been a catastrophe.”
A spokeswomen for Live Active released a statement saying: “Live Active Leisure deeply regrets Saturday night’s upsetting incident.
“We apologise unreservedly to the girls and families involved and are currently carrying out a full internal investigation to ensure this does not happen again in future.”