Girl found dead in [small town] YMCA pool


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, focussing 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.

“Girl found dead in [small town] YMCA pool”

SMALL MIDWESTERN TOWN: 04/01/2002 - An 8-year-old [small town] girl died in what authorities believe was an accidental drowning in a YMCA swimming pool.

[Victim] was found late Friday in the deep end of the pool at the [Name] YMCA in [small town].

A lifeguard saw the girl's body at the bottom of the pool shortly before 11 p.m., police said.

The girl was pronounced dead at [Name] Community Hospital in [small town]. Police said the incident is being treated as an accidental drowning.”

“Relatives say girl found dead in pool didn't know how to swim”

SMALL MIDWESTERN TOWN: 04/02/2002 - An 8-year-old girl who drowned in a pool at a late night Girl Scout party didn't know how to swim, her relatives said.

[Victim] of [small town] was found at the bottom of the pool in the deep end Friday at the [Name] YMCA in [small town].

“It's our understanding from witnesses and relatives that she was a non-swimmer,” said [YMCA director], executive director of the [Name] YMCA.

A lifeguard was on duty and about five adults were at the pool. About 15 girls were in the water when [victim] drowned.

It wasn't clear if anyone knew [victim] couldn't swim when she dove off a diving board in the deep end. She spent about a minute underwater before a lifeguard pulled her from the pool and tried to resuscitate her, [YMCA director] said.

[Small town] police Chief [name] said the death has been ruled an accidental drowning.

"Everyone appears to have done their job,” [police chief] said. “It was just a tragic accident.”

What we know:

  • A non-swimmer gained access to the deep end of the pool and used the diving board.

    • If a deep-water swimming test had been administered to the children, [victim] would probably still be alive today, as she would not have been allowed access to the deep end of the pool. All children should be tested, marked, and protected—meaning that they are restricted to shallow water and are within arms reach of an adult and/or wearing a life jacket.
  • A lifeguard should evaluate all areas within his/her area of responsibility every 10 seconds: above water, below water, and on the pool bottom.

    • If the 10-10 rule had been followed (10 seconds to see a potential problem, another 10 seconds to get to the individual in trouble) the victim would not have been underwater even for the minute estimated by the article. Normally response in that timeframe will preclude the necessity for rescue breathing or CPR.
  • It is far easier to keep swimmers safe than to resuscitate them after an aquatic emergency.

    • As important as rescue techniques are, scanning and guarding are far more important and should be emphasized in all training, supervision, and monitoring
  • Special events bring increased risk and the need for increased diligence.

    • Special events like birthday parties, club gatherings, etc. increase the possibility of harm. Participants are often non-swimmers who may be encouraged to attempt actions beyond their skill or experience level by their own desires and/or peer pressure. Groups of kids playing together are more difficult for lifeguards to watch than the same number of individuals, because of the interaction and horseplay between them.
  • Everyone is responsible for aquatic safety. We do not know where the Girl Scout leaders were when the girls were in the water, but they should have been actively watching their girls, either from the deck or from in the water.

    • Leaders of special group functions should participate in watching their children, even if they are not lifeguards themselves. They know the children and any special needs or interactions that need to be overseen. Everyone on the pool deck should be watching children who are in or near the water, especially when the children are non-swimmers, even more so when children with special needs are present.

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


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