Children's Advocate investigates drowning of Ardenne High student at YMCA ... safety procedures worry parents, coaches
The Office of the Children's Advocate has opened investigations into the tragic drowning of Ardenne High School student, Jevaughn Brown, at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) last Tuesday evening, amid concerns from parents and coaches that proper procedures were not followed at the facility.
"The investigation is in its infancy, as we are gathering statements," Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison told The Sunday Gleaner.
It is reported that 14-year-old Brown, who was at YMCA for community service, was spotted at the bottom of the pool and an alarm was raised, but despite efforts to resuscitate him he was pronounced dead at hospital.
Questions have been raised about whether a lifeguard was on duty and where he was at the time of the incident, which happened after 4 p.m.
According to one coach who frequents YMCA, for far too long the Public Health (Swimming Pools) Regulations 2000 has not been adhered to at the facility.
The regulations state that at least one licensed lifeguard should be present at a public swimming pool for every 20 users.
The coach, however, contended that it was usually not clear as to who was a lifeguard from who was an instructor at the facility.
"If there is staff there and they are on the deck, who is to say who is teaching and who is lifeguarding? I don't see anyone in the lifeguard chair, but the staff is there on the deck with whoever is in the water," reasoned the instructor, who did not wish to be named.
"If you are doing a lifeguard job, then you are sitting there lifeguarding. It is like a security guard; you are not supposed to do anything else but watch."
The veteran swimming coach argued that public swimming pool administrators have for years ignored calls for lifeguards who are clearly identifiable to be stationed at an advantageous viewing point. This dereliction of duty, he posited, was their way of cutting back on cost.
"We have been calling for this to be done, but most of these administrators don't want to hire lifeguards because it is an additional financial burden," the coach told The Sunday Gleaner.
However, programmes coordinator at the YMCA, Garth Riley, challenged that lifeguards are in fact present at the facility and that they are in position most of the times.
"When the parents come here, they are aware as to who is the lifeguard on duty, so even if the person does not have on something that distinctly says lifeguard, they are aware who is the lifeguard," Riley defended.
He further stated that on the day in question when the student died, the lifeguard had left his post as the pool had been cleared shortly before the incident.
"The boys were out of the pool because their time was up and they were taken out and brought to shower off," Riley said. "Nobody knows how he got back in the pool. He was constantly being spoken to, and based on what was said to me, he snuck back into pool. Because the area was cleared, the lifeguard went to the office."
Issue of obedience
But Kevin Page, who was there at the time of the incident and whose nine-year-old son swims with the Y-Speedos Swim Club at the facility, disputed Riley's claims of the pool having been cleared.
"Everybody seems to be concentrating on the issue of obedience; the issue is whether the necessary precautions were taken," Page argued.
"You must always have a lifeguard on duty, clearly identifiable. That person should have seen exactly when he (Brown) got into difficulty and responded immediately. We are missing the point if we are talking about obedience. It is not good enough to tell boys don't do this or that and just leave it up to them; you have to monitor them."
Yaneek Page, who swims at YMCA, said while she did not want to ascribe blame to anyone for Brown's death, she believed this was a good opportunity to closely examine if all was being done to safeguard children and adults alike who use public swimming pools.
"There is an opportunity here for us to look very closely on whether we are doing all we can to protect these children," she said.
"I think we can do more to protect all the children and all who swim there, and it is not just about people who can't swim, as anybody can get into difficulty."