[Town] teen dies in accident at [name] YMCA


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 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 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.

[Town] teen dies in accident at [name] YMCA

MIDWEST TOWN: 04/09/2007 – A [town] teen died Friday evening, April 6, as a result of a swimming accident at the [name] YMCA, according to local officials.

YMCA Executive Director [name] confirmed Saturday, April 7, that [victim], 15, died Friday as the result of a swimming accident at the facility.

In a news release issued Sunday afternoon, April 8, [YMCA exec] said, “The details surrounding this accident await completion of the investigation.

"Our thoughts and prayers and those of our staff are with the family. The YMCA is a leader in this community, being a safe place for children to play, learn new skills and to grow. All of us grieve such an unfortunate tragedy.”

[Town] Police Chief [name] said a 911 call was made at 5:48 p.m. Friday and both ambulance and police officers responded.

On arrival, they found that [victim] was unresponsive and YMCA personnel were administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. [Victim] was taken to [name] Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. There was no sign of foul play, according to the police report.

[Name] County Coroner Willie Harlow said after an autopsy was conducted Saturday, his office concluded that the cause of death was accidental drowning.

[Coroner] said the county's Child Fatality Review Board was scheduled to meet Monday, April 9, to discuss the case.

The board convenes whenever someone under the age of 18 dies, he said.

[YMCA exec] said the YMCA staff followed safety protocols during the incident.

“Our pool deck was fully staffed at the time of this accident,” he said. “All established emergency protocols were followed.”

The YMCA's aquatics safety procedures and staff training exceed state and local requirements, he said.

“We are in contact with the family and our hearts and prayers go out to them at this very difficult time,” [YMCA exec] said.

Boy, 15, Drowns at YMCA Pool in [Town]

MIDWEST TOWN: 04/09/2007A 15-year-old boy drowned at a YMCA swimming pool on Friday night, [name] County authorities said.

Police said someone at the [name] YMCA in [town] called 911 shortly before 6 p.m.

Rescuers found [victim] at the deep end of the pool. YMCA staffers started CPR on the teen, police said. He was then taken to a local hospital, where he later died.

Police said there are no signs of foul play. The case remains under investigation.


  • The victim was an athlete – baseball, football, and hunting (from his obituary, not included here)
  • He was not a small child – he was 15½ and played interior lineman on one of the school’s football teams (from the photo that accompanied the primary article and from his obituary)
  • He was found unresponsive in the deep end of the pool - his distress was not observed by the guards


  • Whether the victim had any pre-existing medical condition(s)
  • Whether the victim had used the Y’s spa or sauna before swimming (known to be present by the Y’s website), or whether he had had baseball practice or other strenuous activity before coming to the Y
  • Anything about activity in the pool – their website says it was a time scheduled for open or lap swim but we don’t know if he was swimming alone, with few in the pool, or with many in the pool
  • Whether the victim was playing some form of breath-hold game
  • Anything about the lifeguards – the director said the pool was fully staffed, but we don’t know what that meant for this YMCA – e.g., training (type, when, in-services, drills and audits, etc.), number on duty, positioning, overall duties, specific activity at the time of the incident, etc.
  • Whether or not the victim knew how to swim; whether there was a swim testing policy and/or if it applied to someone his age and size
  • The cause or nature of his distress or how long he was underwater before being rescued


  • Prepare lifeguards for the potential of disaster…
    • Remind them of the priorities of their job (keeping from harm first, saving from harm when we fail to do the primary job) and the importance of their job (literally life and death)
    • Require guards to know the swimming abilities of every individual who is in their pool.
  • Ensure that guards maintain their safety vigilance…
    • Train them thoroughly – make certain that:
      • guards are thoroughly familiar with the bottom of the pool, i.e., what it looks like with nothing laying on it so that they can more readily tell when someone or something is
      • guards are taught to scan first the pool bottom and the areas under the water – that is where most people drown – then to scan the pool surface and deck area
    • Set them up for success…
      • provide them with and require them to use adequate creature comforts
        • in general – provide an elevated guard chair (national standards require one for pools having at least 1,800 square feet of surface area, two for up to 3,000 square feet of surface area, three for up to 6,000 square feet of surface area, etc.; even if your pool is under the minimum requirement you should consider an elevated chair – a guard who stands for an entire shift is less effective than one who has some options in positioning
        • in outdoor heat – provide sun umbrellas, water for hydration, hats, sun glasses (a hot or squinting guard is an ineffectual guard)
        • in outdoor cold – provide tear-away sweats or radiant heaters (a cold guard is an ineffective guard)
      • provide them adequate scanning and rest breaks, i.e.:
        • a change in scanning vantage point at least every 30 minutes, preferably more frequently (this may be by rotation of guards, by a single guard moving from one location to another, or by a single guard just standing to guard for a period of time)
        • a break from scanning responsibility every hour (they can do other duties, like move lane markers, do water quality tests, pick up the deck, etc. – just no scanning for at least 10 minutes, preferably 15 to 20)
        • an actual rest break approximately every two hours (paid or unpaid in accordance with your own policies and your state’s labor laws, but at least 10 minutes of actual noninvolvement with work activity approximately every two hours, assuming they are working at least three)
    • Monitor their behavior using Aquatic Quick Checks or similar tools to verify that:
      • every portion of each guard’s area of responsibility comes under scrutiny every 10 seconds
        • looking on the pool bottom, under water, and above water and on the pool deck
        • using careful observations, not just quick glances
      • no patron is assumed impervious to harm

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.


Submit a comment