Lap swimmer drowns in YMCA pool


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 facility. 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.

“Lap swimmer drowns in YMCA pool”

LARGE MID-WESTERN CITY: 10/28/2005 – An elderly lap swimmer was found at the bottom of the deep end of her local YMCA pool early Wednesday morning by a fellow bather.

[Victim], a 78-year-old frequent swimmer at the Y, was noticed lying in 10 feet of water by one of the other 6:30 a.m. swimmers. The man alerted the lifeguard, who extracted her from the pool and administered CPR until paramedics arrived about 20 minutes later.

Battalion Chief Scott Small said that he believed that she was on the pool's bottom for a few minutes.

She was transported to Lutheran General Hospital where she expired the next morning. A [name] County autopsy ruled that her death was by drowning; no contributory medical conditions or events were mentioned.

Swimming was one of [victim’s] favorite activities. She was an active retiree who belonged to St. James Women’s Club in addition to the YMCA. She also enjoyed biking, gardening, and reading. Funeral services will take place on Wednesday the 2nd at St. James.

She is survived by her brother, [name], and her daughter and granddaughter, [names].

YMCA officials say that they have lost one of their own. “We felt she was truly part of the YMCA family,” said [name], spokeswoman for YMCA. She often swam with a group of women and was well liked by staff and members alike. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

[YMCA spokeswoman] said she didn't know how many lifeguards were on duty and refused to answer other questions


  • How long the victim was underwater.
  • If any other medical condition precipitated the drowning.
  • How many lifeguards were on duty, where they were positioned, and if they were distracted by any other tasks or personal activities.


  • The victim was a competent swimmer who was familiar with the pool.
  • No one noticed her distress or the cause of her tragedy.
  • She had been underwater for at least several minutes when she was discovered motionless at the bottom 10 feet of water by a fellow swimmer.
  • One or more lifeguards were on duty at the time of the incident but it was not a lifeguard who identified the situation.
  • The medical examiner ruled her death as an accidental drowning.


  • Lifeguards must actively scan the pool at all times that it is open.
    • Actively scanning means consciously evaluating all portions of the surface, below water, and pool bottom of the guard’s area of responsibility.
    • Early mornings, lap swim, and slow periods are no exception.
    • Secondary duties or personal activities cannot ever be allowed to distract an on-duty lifeguard.
  • Drowning is no respecter of swimming ability, experience, or age…anyone can drown.
  • How many lifeguards were on duty, where they were positioned, and if they were distracted by any other tasks or personal activities.
    • The young may have issues of swimming ability, size, and limited life experience.
    • The elderly may be taken for granted as minimal risk patrons, may swim slowly and quietly, and may have preexisting medical conditions or diminished physical fitness.
    • There are no completely unambiguous signs…
      • Non-swimmers don’t always drown and Olympic-caliber swimmers sometimes do
      • People don’t carry a sign indicating their health condition, confidence issues, or phobias
      • Drowning victims don’t regularly wear red swim caps or use easily distinguishable markings so that the lifeguard(s) can more readily identify them
  • Normally a drowning is silent. The victim neither thrashes arms and legs nor yells for help. Often the victim’s above-water distress will be without obvious sound or visual clue and s/he will slip underwater in less than twenty seconds.
  • A lifeguard cannot prevent someone from suffering a fatal heart attack, stroke, or other medical emergency when s/he is in the pool. However, no matter what life-threatening event initiates an aquatic emergency the guard should be able to prevent a subsequent drowning. The above incident had **no* noted contributory medical conditions or emergency…she apparently just drowned.*


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