Investigations into several incidents at aquatics
facilities around the country have raised concerns over the
attentiveness and professionalism of pool staffs. Perhaps
the most serious cases involved drownings at the Great
America theme park near San Francisco; at the Community
Center in Mason, Ohio; and at the United Cerebral Palsy
Dennis James Center near Palm Springs, Calif.
At Great America, a 4-year-old boy drowned in the wave
pool last summer. A recently released Department of
Industrial Relations investigation report concluded the boy
had been floating for 39 seconds before guards found him;
they were unclear about the boundaries of their specific
watch zones; and four of the six guards on duty had been at
their posts for more than 90 minutes.
The report also contained a series of corrective
actions, which, according to Cal-OSHA spokerswoman Kate
McGuire, the park was required to implement before
reopening. These included:
- Every child under 42 inches, and persons needing
special considerations, must be accompanied in the wave
pool by an adult
- A personal flotation device policy for children
under 48 inches
- A maximum time period for guards at any one
- A retraining of guards on the 10/20 scanning rules,
zone locations and any new policies.
The accident prompted State Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-San
Jose) to introduce a bill creating statewide standards for
adult supervision, life jacket requirements and lifeguard
staffing. The legislation is still pending.
In Mason, Ohio, as of press time, officials are
investigating allegations of inattentive lifeguards in the
wake of an April drowning at the Mason Community Center
pool. A toddler drowned while celebrating his fourth
birthday this spring. According to reports in the local
press, another parent told a Community Center committee
that guards had asked his young daughter to investigate a
floating object and inform them as to whether it was fecal
matter. No one in Mason could be reached for comment.
In Palm Springs, Calif., an investigation was mounted
after the January drowning of a 5-year-old autistic girl.
She was at a hydrotherapy session overseen by employees of
the United Cerebral Palsy Dennis James Center. Two of the
staff members were employees of the Palm Springs Unified
School District. Authorities concluded there was no
criminal negligence, though a spokesman for the Riverside
County district attorney’s office told local media
the victim’s family might file a wrongful death