[Suburb] woman dies while swimming at YMCA

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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 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 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.


“[Suburb] woman dies while swimming at YMCA”

MAJOR MID-WESTERN CITY – 11/23/2002: [First victim], 49, of [suburb], died Thursday while swimming laps in the pool at the YMCA at [address] in [suburb 2].

[First victim], of the [numerical designator] block of [street], was found unresponsive in the pool about 2 p.m. She was taken to [Name] Health Center, where she died. The cause of her death is still under investigation.


“Man dies after being pulled from pool”

MAJOR MID-WESTERN CITY – 12/04/2002: [Second victim], 39, of [suburb 3], died Saturday after he was found unconscious in the swimming pool at the YMCA at [address] in [suburb 2]. [Second victim], of the [numerical designator] block of [street], was found about 2:30 p.m. and taken to [Name] Health Center, where he died.

Witnesses said [second victim] had been jumping off the diving board. He had suffered from autism and had a history of seizures, investigators said. [First victim], 49, of [suburb], died Nov. 22 while swimming laps in the same pool. The cause of both deaths is under investigation.


What we don’t know:

  • the cause of death in either incident; neither have yet been attributed to drowning and both are under investigation; there has been no public announcement regarding the cause of death in first incident, which happened nearly 3 weeks ago

  • Almost anything about the incidents themselves…

    • how busy the pool was at the time of either event (both being about the same time in the afternoon, but on different days of the week)
    • the quality of lifeguarding with regard to ratio, ancillary duties, attentiveness, or, for that matter, whether the pool was even actively guarded at the times of the incidents
    • the specifics of the first incident…the first article first says she died while swimming on Thursday, then later it says that she died at the care facility; the second says she died on 11/22… 11/22 was a Friday; we presume the incident was Thursday and the resulting death was Friday
  • whether the second victim was a special needs swimmer as was hinted by the reference to his history of seizures

  • what response, comment, or activity was made by the organization or its staff, if any; the facility itself is completely unmentioned in these very brief news spots; the facility is noted as the site of both incidents, but nothing more; what the organization did or did not do is unknown, and it is very possible that the facility was not even contacted by the reporter(s) who prepared these news flashes

What we do know:

  • two adults were found either unconscious or unresponsive in the same facility swimming pool within 10 days of one another

  • the victims were reported found unconscious or unresponsive, which at least implies that they were not observed in distress (aquatic or otherwise) and pulled from the water in an attempted rescue; if those reports are accurate, that would mean that the 10/10 standard was not being met, no matter what the actual causes of death

What should be remembered:

  • Any pool that is open or accessible for use should always be actively guarded by an attentive qualified lifeguard. Details on what that entails may be found in RMT – An Inviolate Primer or in briefer form in RMA – An Inviolate Primer on our website.

  • Even adults can drown. Sometimes (though not necessarily in either of these instances) adults may be special needs swimmers needing extra, possibly one-on-one, attention.

  • It is important for a JCC to live and demonstrate its values, especially in a time of tragedy… not just to the specific individuals and families involved, but to the entire community.

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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