Girl critical after swimming accident

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Each year, nearly 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 YMCA. 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 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.


(This tragedy was the second drowning to occur on the same weekend in YMCA pools.)


“Girl critical after swimming accident”

“SMALL EASTERN TOWN: 04/01/2002 - An 11-year-old girl was in critical condition Monday after nearly drowning at a YMCA pool during a Family Night outing, authorities said. [NB: the young lady died early Tuesday morning.]

[Victim] jumped into the pool Friday evening and didn't resurface, [small town] police said. About 20 people were swimming at the time.

Two lifeguards performed first aid until medics arrived.

[Victim] was taken to [name] Medical Center and later transferred to [name] Hospital in [big city]. Friends of the girl's family told [newspaper] of [small town] that she was on life support and not breathing on her own. A hospital spokeswoman would say only that the girl's condition was critical.

YMCA Executive Director [name] said witnesses indicated [victim] was under water only a short time.

“We're still trying to put all the pieces together but the best we can figure out is she went under and almost immediately our lifeguard was in the water,” he said. “By all eyewitness accounts, she wasn't in the water that long and there doesn't [sic] seem to be any extenuating circumstances. It appears to have been just a tragic accident.”

He could not say whether the girl hit her head before going under.

Police ruled it an accident.


“[Small town] girl dies after swimming accident”

SMALL EASTERN TOWN: 04/02/2002 - An 11-year-old [small town] girl died early Tuesday after being pulled from a pool Friday at the YMCA on East Main Street, police and hospital officials confirmed.

[Victim] appears to have drowned while swimming with friends about 7 p.m., said [city] Police Chief [name]. [Police chief] said lifeguards were attentive and quickly rescued the girl when they saw she did not resurface after jumping in the pool during a Family Night outing.

Lifeguards performed first aid, and the unresponsive [victim] was taken to [name] Medical Center in [small town]. She was later transferred to [name] Hospital in [city], where she was pronounced dead at 4:20 a.m.

Police said the incident was accidental. [YMCA director] said police have received some information that the girl was not a strong swimmer. The girl's mother and aunt were at the scene.

An autopsy is being conducted by the [name] County Medical Examiner's Office.


What we don’t know:

  • The victim’s swimming skills…there is some indication that she was not a strong swimmer.

    • Swim testing of all children is critical. Only children who have demonstrated their ability to swim in deep water should be allowed into that portion of the pool. Once tested, they should be marked so that the lifeguards can tell who belongs where. Non-swimmers should receive extra protection—either remaining within arms reach of an adult or wearing a life jacket.
  • The quality of immediate medical care the victim received… the article cites “first aid”

    • Presumably the victim needed CPR, not first aid, but the error is probably that of reporting, not care. The possibility of a spinal/head injury is raised, but the method of extrication is not recorded, nor is mention made of whether there was EMT response.

What we do know:

  • An adequate number of lifeguards was on duty–2 guards for 20 swimmers.

    • More important than ratio is vigilance, but the reported quick response would indicate that was also good. The unresponsiveness and eventual drowning of the victim is unusual if the response was truly quick, unless another injury or medical condition was present.
  • The organization's reported response and comments do little to convey care or concern for those affected

    • Circumstances such as these are difficult and sentiments are often hard to communicate, but an expression of care and concern for the victim, his family, and others affected is critical. To speak of rapid response (accurately or not) belittles the tragedy and alienates the traumatized. Remember to show that the camp cares.

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 YMCA risk management issues.

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