Each year, approximately 1,500 children 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 facility. 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 is a brief treatment of the topic, focusing on a real, recent, public event… reprinting the published article in its entirety (omitting only direct references to the individual organization) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff.
On November 16, 2001, this news article appeared in a major southwestern newspaper:
By: L. Anne Newell
“The family of a 7-year-old girl who drowned at a YMCA pool in October filed a lawsuit against the organization on Thursday, alleging negligence and carelessness caused the death of [victim].
The lawsuit, filed for [victim]'s parents, [father] and [mother], says the girl was under water at least eight minutes directly in front of the lifeguard's elevated chair at the YMCA on [street address].
[Attorney 1], who with [attorney 2] represents the family, said lab tests show [victim] may have been under water as long as 20 minutes on Oct. 26.
She was unconscious when she was pulled from the pool and never woke. She was on life support equipment at University Medical Center for eight hours and died 10 hours after her family decided to remove the equipment, the lawsuit says.
[YMCA spokeswoman] and [attorney 3], an attorney for the office representing the YMCA, declined comment.
[YMCA Spokeswoman] said the 18-year-old lifeguard on duty when the drowning occurred was put on leave after the incident. [YMCA Spokeswoman] said she would remain on leave until an investigation of the drowning is completed.
[Victim] was one of nine children at the pool, [attorney 3] said. The kids were part of a YMCA after-school program that normally took place at their school, [name] Elementary, but was at the YMCA that day because of staffing shortages.
[Victim] could not swim and her parents did not know she would be in a pool that is 6 feet deep, [attorney 1] said. No flotation devices were provided for [victim].
The lawsuit asks the YMCA to reimburse funeral and medical expenses as well as compensate the family for the loss. It also asks that the YMCA be assessed a civil fine.”
Fact: A child who could not swim was allowed in six feet of water.
Fact: A new group had entered the organization’s pool due to a staffing shortage at the victim’s school.
Fact: The drowning occurred at the guard’s feet and the victim was underwater for 6+ minutes.
Fact: The organization commented on the suspension of the guard but made no further comment to the media.