The parents of two sisters who died with a friend while taking part in a water-sliding activity in Vietnam say they are confident an inquest next week will finally establish the trio were doing nothing dangerous or reckless at the time.
Izzy Squire, 19 and Beth Anderson, 24, died with Christian Sloan, 25, during a day trip in the Dalanla waterfalls area of the south-east Asian country in February 2016.
The sisters’ parents, David Squire and Tracy Dodd, said a swirl of reports from Vietnam at the time of the tragedy suggested that Miss Squire, Miss Anderson and Mr Sloan had ignored advice, had been “messing about” or negligent in other ways as they took part in dangerous activities.
But they said the initial reports that implied they had somehow contributed to their own deaths had now been shown to be “complete rubbish”.
Mr Squire, 52, and Ms Dodd, 56, said they are hoping an inquest to be held in Sheffield on Monday will set out clear health and safety failings.
And they stressed that the evidence will also show that, far from being a dangerous trek into the wilderness, the friends were taking part in a benign tourist activity in a park Ms Dodd described as “like Center Parcs meets the National Trust”.
Mr Squire said: “It’s not like we’re gunning for justice or retribution. It’s not like that.
“We just want everyone to know that they didn’t do anything wrong at all.
“They were innocent completely.
“They thought they were taking an easy tour trip, a day trek thing. It was not an adventurous day for them.”
He said: “You don’t expect to die if you go to Center Parcs.”
Mr Squire said his daughters, who were from Sheffield, and Mr Sloan, from Kent, had taken part in a number of classic tourist activities on the day trip in the hours before they went down the water-sliding attraction.
He said this final activity involved putting on safety equipment, including a life jacket and helmet, and then sliding head first down a smooth, stone slab into a pool.
Mr Squire said he now knows what went wrong but wants to hear this described at the inquest before outlining the tragedy in public.
He said much of the evidence which has been put before the coroner was gathered following a Facebook campaign by Mr Sloan’s sister, Katie, which led to many people coming forward who were close to the scene.
This included a multinational group of eight tourists who were directly behind the trio in the queue for the water-sliding activity and had photos and even GoPro footage of events immediately before the tragedy.
Mr Squire said: “They prove where they were at the time and give strong evidence to suggest that they certainly were not messing about.”
Mr Squire and Ms Dodd said the inquest will put the truth in the public domain. But they said it is just one of the milestones they have had to pass in the three years since their daughters died.
“I loathe that word closure with a vengeance because there is no closure for us and there never will be,” Mr Squire said.
“People use that term like it will give us something.
“It (the inquest) is a milestone in the sense that the funeral was a milestone, their birthdays every year are a milestone and Christmas is a milestone, but they’re milestones not closures.”
He said: “For us, and I know it’s the same for Christian’s family, it’s about the truth coming out and at least admittance of any failings that were there.”
The couple say they originally thought the Vietnamese authorities would “sweep the matter under the carpet”, especially after initially receiving a scant, four-page document which seemed to repeat inaccurate press reports from the time.
However, South Yorkshire Police, who have led the investigation on behalf of the coroner, were eventually sent a 200-page report which set out detailed interviews with key Vietnamese witnesses.
Mr Squire and Ms Dodd said this document also sets out clearly a series of breaches under Vietnamese laws and regulations.
They said they understand a criminal investigation is still under way in Vietnam but are frustrated at hearing nothing about this for a year.