This article has been reproduced pursuant to 17 USC Section 107 for a non-commercial purpose. Reproduction is for nonprofit educational purposes of a newsworthy event only. Although this article does not deal directly with YMCAs, it discusses an issue very germane to YMCA practices.
TRAGIC DAY AT THE POOL
SOUTHEAST CITY – 03/20/07: While lifeguards and family members worked to save 4-year-old [female victim], her 3-year-old brother, [male victim], apparently was unseen and drowning a few yards away.
At a private pool party Sunday night at [name] Park Aquatic Center in [town], a lifeguard saw [female victim] drowning and jumped in to rescue her, police said. She wasn't breathing. The lifeguard started performing CPR.
But while she was being resuscitated, [male victim] was drowning somewhere else in the pool, police said. Too late, a family member pulled [male victim] from the water. Lifeguards and paramedics tried CPR on him as well.
[Female victim] survived. [Male victim] died sometime during the night at [name] Medical Center.
A phone call to the [victim’s] home was not returned late Monday. No one answered the door at the home Monday afternoon.
The [victim’s] neighbors [name] held their 4-year-old daughter, [name], tightly as they listened in shock to the story.
[Neighbor] described [victims] as calm children. [Neighbor’s] own daughter takes swimming lessons at the pool twice a week.
“I can only speak highly of them,” [neighbor] said of staff at the county-owned pool. “They've done a great job with [my daughter].”
But she worried that the drowning might have taken place in a winding canal along the edge of the children's section of the pool.
The County pool, open year-round, has two indoor swim areas – a lap pool used mostly for adults and a leisure pool with a water slide and a jungle gym for kids. The deepest part of the leisure pool is 3.6 feet.
The canal snakes along the back of the leisure pool. Water jets create a current in the canal to sluice swimmers along. With effort, an adult can stand still in the current.
“If you're an adult it really pushes you,” said [witness], taking laps on the other side of the pool. “If you're a kid, I can't imagine.”
[Patron] brought his 7-year-old nephew, [name], to the pool Monday. [Patron], a former lifeguard, praised Park lifeguards for their watchfulness. But he worried that the water slide and play set obstructed some of the sight lines in the leisure pool.
“They kept a good eye,” he said, “but there are some places that are hard to see.”
A County police spokesman did not know where [male victim] drowned in the pool.
There were about 30 children at the private event with three lifeguards on duty, investigators said.
Lifeguards used a 30-minute “on” and 15-minute “off” rotation. At the time of the incident, two lifeguards were actively working.
Emergency personnel were dispatched to the pool shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday.
[County employee], division director of operations in the county's parks and recreation department, said that before Sunday, no one had drowned in a County pool during her 19 years in the department.
“This really hasn't happened to us before,” she said. “This is so tragic.”
[County employee] defended the lifeguards at the event. “I've been a lifeguard in my earlier years. To even have to revive someone, that's a true test of training,” she said. “You go into autopilot. And they did and they saved that little girl. Our lifeguard staff are well-trained. They did their job. They saved a life.”
Along with cooperating with the police investigation, [county employee] said she had launched her own review of the county's water safety procedures to see if changes need to be made.
[State] law and County ordinances are relatively non-specific when it comes to lifeguard training. Lifeguards are required to have training from the American Red Cross or another nationally-recognized training program.
[County employee] said it is park department policy that lifeguards be professionally trained in Red Cross CPR techniques and administering first aid and defibrillator use.
The county also emphasizes parental and adult supervision of children at public pools. All children under the age of 6 must be accompanied by an adult, wearing a swimming suit and within arm's reach of a child at all times. At group events there must be one adult for every six children in the pool, [county employee] said.
“[County] has got a good program,” said [Red Cross Rep], aquatic program specialist for the metro [City] Red Cross. “They routinely refresh their guards' skills.”
Other than expressing condolences to the victim's family, County officials deferred most questions about the incident to the police department.
“The County Board of Commissioners regrets this tragic event,” Chairman [name] said. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to those who are so deeply affected by this tragedy.”
Every drowning and near drowning involves a unique set of circumstances, but there are some elements or contributing factors that appear with frightening frequency, such as the following. * The incident occurs when the pool is being used for special events (e.g., birthday or other pool parties, use by outside groups, open or family swim involving people who are not regular pool users, etc.) instead of regular structured programming. Contributing factors may include: * lack of clear accountability (lifeguards versus chaperones) * insufficient number of lifeguards or lookout staff on the pool deck * lack of swimming skills assessment (swim testing) and related identification of weak or non-swimmers. * Lack of effective scanning and identification of victims potentially in distress. * Guards are not positioned to see all of the pool bottom in their individual areas of responsibility * Guards are not consistently attentive – talking, eating, and ancillary duties interrupt scanning * Guards do not consistently scan appropriately, e.g., from bottom to top, covering all of their area of responsibility every 10 seconds * Guards have not been adequately trained in recognizing troubled swimmers, especially youth * Lack of adherence to the principle “If you don’t know, GO!” * Lack of effective CPR competency * Insufficient protocols or inadequate training and compliance with protocols regarding pool control during an emergency event – e.g., clearing the pool, controlling the crowd, watching the pool even though it is theoretically empty * Lack of management attention on aquatic safety. * Lack of parental attention.
Aquatic safety challenges in the YMCA community
Critical changes needed in YMCA aquatic safety practices and management systems
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.