A lifeguard facing charges of reckless endangerment and risk of injury to a minor has the opportunity to have his record expunged following a court-mandated hiatus from the profession.
Stamford, Conn. Superior Court Judge Gary White ruled that Zachary Stein, 24, is not allowed to be a lifeguard or participate in a similar lifesaving profession for a period of two years, after which the felony and misdemeanor charges will be dismissed.
The ruling stems from Stein’s delayed rescue of a 5-year-old boy in August of last year.
According to surveillance footage, the child was under water for more than 4 minutes and 39 seconds before Stein, who was guarding a pool at Chelsea Piers at the time, took action. The boy was unconscious and not breathing when Stein extricated him.
Though Stein saved the child’s life, authorities charged that his inattentiveness put the victim at severe risk.
The boy does not appear to have suffered any long-term damage, according to the Stamford Advocate.
Stein has maintained his innocence.
His attorney, Mark Sherman, says the judge’s decision to suspend prosecution is a victory for the aquatics industry. Had the case gone to trial, there may have been a far less favorable outcome.
Since his arrest in September of last year, Stein’s fate has been inextricably linked to the industry at large. That lifeguards could face criminal charges for accidental oversights held unsettling implications for the lifeguarding profession.
Sherman said he has heard from facility operators across the state about the case’s potential chilling effect on their recruiting efforts.
Those concerns should be allayed for now.
“The heart of my argument was this was a mistake and an accident,” Sherman said. “There was no intent here to not do his job.”
State Prosecutor Richard Colangelo pushed for a trial, arguing that Stein wasn’t following scanning protocol, that the lifeguard appeared unfocused.
“The video shows Mr. Stein walking around the pool, sitting in the lifeguard chair, not looking at the water,” he said. “You need to make sure you’re focusing on what you’re supposed to be focusing on.”
Sherman said his client is relieved, but that his “primary concern was always with the welfare of the family.”
“It’s been a tough time since the arrest,” he added. “He prays every day for this boy. Thankfully he seems to be on the road to recovery.”