[County] girl pulled from pool on Friday dies


Each year, about 1,500 young people drown in the U.S. As we all know, a drowning can occur nearly anywhere. Yet, the natural inclination is to believe that one will not happen in our own community, especially at our own JCC. Awareness of the threat's reality is critical. Reinforcing proven prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Aquatic Alert” program. Each alert is a brief treatment of the topic, focusing on a real, recent, public event, gleaned from the media…reprinting the published article in its entirety – omitting names and identifying references to the organization – and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546.

“[County] girl pulled from pool on Friday dies…4-year-old was visiting YMCA in [nearby town]”

MID-SIZED TOWN, GREAT LAKES REGION: 06/20/2004 – A 4-year-old girl who had been revived briefly after a lifeguard pulled her from a pool at the [name] YMCA died early yesterday at [name] Hospital. News of the death of [victim] shook both patrons and employees, many of whom had watched the fight to save her.

“We are devastated,” YMCA Executive Director [name] said. [Town] police said [victim] went swimming with her sister and a baby sitter Friday and was found facedown shortly before 7 p.m. in the 3-foot section of the center's outdoor pool at [address].

“I believe they worked on her for probably 40 minutes,” police Sgt. [name] said of the rescue and transport to [first-response hospital]. [Victim] then was flown by helicopter to [hospital where she died]. Detectives likely will continue their investigation in the next few days, [police sergeant] said. [YMCA executive] said the YMCA is trying to determine what happened. “I'm not at liberty to say much; we're still doing the homework,” [YMCA executive] said. “It was an accident.”

While public-pool drownings happen, they are less common than accidents in unguarded or home pools. Another 4-year-old girl, [name] of [nearby city], drowned Friday while playing with a child in a backyard kiddie pool filled with 8 inches of water. The presence of lifeguards at pools increases safety greatly, but even then, parents should keep a close watch, experts say. “We have hundreds of people drowning annually in guarded swimming pools, and most people don't understand how this can happen,” said [name], director of aquatics at [university] and an expert on water safety. “But it happens, and it's going to continue to happen. Drowning in a pool is subtle and it's silent. And lifeguards are human beings.”

Research shows that even the most experienced guards have problems with constant vigilance, [university aquatics director] said. A phenomenon known as “change blindness” makes it difficult to quickly spot the unexpected, he said. Crowding and splashing make matters worse. “Lifeguards try to be preventive and look for someone in danger, and sometimes the person is already lying on the bottom of the pool,” he said. “They're difficult to see.”

[University aquatics director] thinks the expensive, life-saving technology now in use at just a few pools worldwide eventually will make its way to more public venues. At [university], he said, officials have invested in a drowning-detection system that sets off a warning when someone is immobile on a pool bottom for more than 10 seconds.

Investigators have not determined how long [victim] was in the pool before she was found. Interviews were incomplete last night, [police sergeant] said.

Police picked up [victim]'s mother, [name], 29, from her job at a restaurant in time for her to fly to [city] with her child. The family was back home in [small town near the YMCA] last night and did not want to comment.

What we don’t know:

  • Whether her mother knew she was going to be going swimming that day

  • Any details of the incident…e.g.,

    • the number or qualifications of lifeguards at the pool
    • the number of bathers in the pool
    • whether she could swim
    • whether the lifeguards swim tested her
    • the age of her sister or her baby sitter
    • where she was in relation to her baby sitter
    • how long she was in distress before the rescue response began
  • the pool’s protocols regarding swim testing, PFDs (personal flotation devices)/life jackets, and supervision of small children in the water

What we do know:

  • Three feet of water is too deep for most four-year-olds to be safe without close constant supervision

  • She was a guest in the pool, presumably unknown to the lifeguards

  • All the organization would say is “It was an accident.”

  • Whatever was done was clearly not enough

What we must remember:

  • No child should ever be allowed unsupervised in deep water without having passed a swim test.

  • Any child that does not pass a swim test should be restricted to shallow water (i.e., above the nipples or arm-pits) and if:

    • the child is within arm’s reach of an adult that is providing constant, active supervision
    • the child is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device
    • the child is involved in a swimming lesson being taught by a qualified swimming instructor

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about JCC risk management issues.


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