Tim Bobko

It was July 21, 2016 and 103 degrees out. A “perfect storm” was brewing at my seasonal outdoor 2,000,000-gallon pool. My assistant and I had just talked that morning about how something didn’t feel right.

An hour after opening, there were approximately 500 guests, mostly children, at our pool. Included in these were our Day Camp children and counselors, a Christian youth camp and staff, and the general public. An elderly grandmother, who had to use walking sticks with both arms to walk, paid for herself and her 5- and 8-year-old grandsons to enter our facility.

First red flag: The youngest had no swim trunks. We gave him a pair out of our “stash” and they entered the pool.

Second red flag: All staff members were on their “A Game” and extra staff members were on duty. My assistant and I were out on the deck watching the water as well and talking about “Grandma” and “Little Guy” and how she had sat down on the zero depth in the water and was vigilantly watching; however, we both agreed because of her limited mobility, she would not be able to do much if he went under.

Third red flag: The area was packed with small children and the deck guard was really scanning back and forth. My assistant and I turned to the guard room, five steps away from the edge of the pool, to let a small child know it was a bad idea to throw drinking water when I heard “Grandma” yell. The world stopped as a head guard who was on break and had gotten into the water to cool off came up out of the water with a little blue body and put him up on the deck.

My assistant and the head guard started CPR. So much foam was coming from that little blue body during five cycles of CPR, then a squealing noise could be heard. During all of this time, which seemed like days, I had been on the line with a “911” operator, telling them exactly what was happening. The EMT’s came through the gate and “scooped and ran” with the now-not-so-blue body.

As time started again, I looked around to see the pool cleared, staff members exactly where they should be. The Day Camp lined up to leave and the Christian Camp members were on their knees, praying.

Time had stood still during the incident, yet everything had gone “textbook” perfect. All the EAP training and all the in-service had given the “Little Guy” the best chance to survive. All the questions I had asked myself over the years of training, such as “Are they really getting it?”, were being answered right before my eyes.

Hours into the night, we got word that Nathan (Little Guy) was doing well and should make a full recovery. It was ruled a “Drowning with a Successful Resuscitation.” We had done our jobs and used our hours of training to give Nathan back to the world.

Lessons Learned

1 Listen to your gut! Aquatics people can sense things others can’t.

2 Don’t let up on the training. Be vigilant! I had almost let my team leave training a few days earlier without doing CPR because they were grumbling.

3 Keep the right mind-set. If you stay in the industry long enough, you, too, will have that “perfect storm.” Have the mind-set to train for when it happens, not if it happens.