Group home resident dies in Y pool

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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.


“Group home resident dies in Y pool”

MIDWEST CITY: 05/12/2006 –- Dwayne [surname] used the swimming pool at the [name] YMCA several times before Wednesday night, without a problem.

Now police are investigating how the 16-year-old boy - who could not swim - ended up at the bottom of the deep end. He died a short time later at University Hospital.

“It's just a shock,” said Steve Thompson, executive director of the Sunrise Residential Life Skills Center on Burnet Avenue in [city], a group home for youths where Dwayne was living.

Dwayne was on an outing at the Y with other residents of the home, Thompson said.

Thompson said it was Dwayne's fourth visit to the Y. “He's been in the pool each of those times,” he said. “Our hearts are heavy to learn of this sad news,” [name], president/CEO of the YMCA of [city], said Thursday of Dwayne's death.

Police and fire personnel responded to the Y, [address], about 8:45 p.m. Dwayne, who had been pulled from the pool, was unconscious when they arrived.

Dwayne and six other boys, ages 12 to 16, had been brought there to swim by a group home employee, police said. A lifeguard found Dwayne at the bottom of the pool in 10 feet of water and pulled him out. “The young man came swimming with his group home and swam while an experienced, certified lifeguard was on duty,” [YMCA CEO] said. “The guard administered CPR with the help of another YMCA member who happens to be a police officer.” An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death, police said.

YMCA spokeswoman [name] said it is not known how long the teen was at the bottom of the pool.

Thompson said the group home staff member circulates through the Y to monitor residents as they participate in various activities. Dwayne, of [suburb], recently moved into the group home. Teens are placed by [Name] County Jobs and Family Services Department, Thompson said.

They have behavior problems or have home situations that necessitate their removal, he said.


WHAT WE DO KNOW:

  • Dwayne was 16 years old and could not swim
  • He and 6 other boys from a group home came with a chaperone
  • No one saw the incident…
    • The chaperone couldn’t find him when they were ready to leave, had him paged (information from another published source), but when there was no response assumed that Dwayne had left by himself and so the group left without him
    • A lifeguard saw him on the bottom of the deep end after the pool was closed (information from another published source), about 30 minutes after the group left.
  • CPR was administered unsuccessfully

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW:

  • Details about the pool and it’s guarding…a statement says there was a certified lifeguard on duty but we don’t know the following:
    • bather count
    • the activity or alertness of the lifeguard
    • whether Dwayne had been swim tested
    • water clarity
    • whether (and if so, why) he had been in the deep end of the pool
  • Details about the incident…no one saw it
  • How long Dwayne was on the pool bottom…but probably over 30 minutes

WHAT WE MUST DO:

  • Lifeguards should test the swimming abilities of every individual and should mark each according to his or her skill level. Non-swimmers should be restricted to the shallow water and be additionally protected by direct arms-reach supervision or with a life jacket
  • Each lifeguard’s scanning should systematically cover the entire area of responsibility every 10 seconds…primarily the pool bottom, next the area between the bottom and the surface, and lastly the surface. Scanning involves careful scrutiny, not just quick glances.
  • Before taking the stand, during rotations or other intervals, and every time a guard leaves the stand or closes the pool, standard practice should be to check and ensure that the zone, in particular the pool bottom, is clear. Obviously this was not regularly done in this case.
  • When groups use our aquatic facilities their staff should be required to actively watch their participants…group leaders know the strengths and weaknesses of their participants far better than the lifeguard.

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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