Safety pro­ce­dures at YMCA worry par­ents, coaches

Chil­dren’s Ad­vo­cate in­ves­ti­gates drown­ing of Ar­denne High stu­dent

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ryon Jones Staff Re­porter ryon.jones@glean­erjm.com

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 was he 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.

IG­NORED

“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 Paige, 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,” Paige 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.”

Yanique Paige, 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.”

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.

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.

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