Near-drown­ing re­port a ‘white-wash’


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The mother of a young Cromwell girl who was brought back to life af­ter ‘drown­ing’ in a com­mu­nity pool says an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent is a ‘‘com­plete white wash’’ and rid­dled with er­rors.

Rachelle Crooks has been on a cru­sade to in­crease pool safety and aware­ness at the Cromwell Swim Cen­tre af­ter her 6-year-old daugh­ter nearly drowned at the pool on May 11 last year.

Rachelle and her chil­dren Amelia, 6, and Ri­ley, 10, were vis­it­ing the pool for the first time. Crooks was sit­ting with other care­givers at the end of the ther­a­peu­tic pool watch­ing her daugh­ter play­ing. Un­aware the pool depth dropped away, Rachelle thought Amelia was safe. Sud­denly she was gone. Ri­ley raised the alarm, run­ning past two life­guards who were talk­ing. He yelled to his mother who jumped into the pool. The two life­guards stood pool­side while she handed Amelia’s life­less body up. For five min­utes Amelia showed no signs of life while a nurse who was at the pool per­formed CPR with as­sis­tance from a life­guard. Af­ter five min­utes, Amelia was breath­ing and was taken to Dunedin Hos­pi­tal.

‘‘I thought my baby girl was gone. I was in ut­ter shock and am in­ca­pable of de­scrib­ing my daugh- ter lay­ing there life­less. I can not re­move the hor­rific vi­sion em­bed­ded in my head,’’ Crooks says.

At Work­safe’s re­quest, the Cen­tral Otago District Coun­cil car­ried out a Duty Holder Re­view into the near drown­ing which Crooks says is noth­ing but a ‘‘white-wash’’. It fails to ac­knowl­edge the in­com­pe­tence of the life­guards; in­ad­e­qua­cies in the pool’s health and safety sys­tems and pro­ce­dures; the in­ves­ti­ga­tion also ex­cluded her and had er­rors.

The Duty Holder Re­view iden­ti­fied the lack of ‘‘mother’s’’ su­per­vi­sion as the ba­sic cause.

Rachelle said she was out­raged when she read the duty-holder re­view.

‘‘I was ac­tively watch­ing my daugh­ter. How dare they blame me when the life­guards were stand­ing talk­ing - know­ing full well where the change in depth oc­curs. Nei­ther I, nor my chil­dren, were made aware of the haz­ard. There was no sig­nage of this pos­si­ble dan­ger. The life­guards should have taken more re­spon­si­bil­ity and fol­lowed procedure. They were not skilled enough, were in­ad­e­quate and in­com- pe­tent. They were not su­per­vis­ing the pool at the time; They didn’t ‘res­cue’ Amelia - I jumped in; They had to be told what to re­trieve; They didn’t at­tach the de­fib­ril­la­tor. Th­ese life­sav­ing skills should have been done au­to­mat­i­cally.’’

She had also voiced con­cern at be­ing ex­cluded from the re­port, but was ‘‘fobbed off’’.

‘‘Just over a week had past and I merely re­sponded (that) I was still in shock and car­ing for the needs of my chil­dren.’’

Cen­tral Otago District Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Leanne Mash said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­pleted in a timely man­ner and Crooks did not want to par­tic­i­pate at that time. ‘‘Staff were aware of the dis­tress she was un­der and re­spected her po­si­tion.’’

Coun­cil had pro­vided fur­ther in­for­ma­tion to Work­safe, which had also car­ried out a site in­spec­tion. Coun­cil had since un­der­taken ‘‘a num­ber of ac­tions’’, in­clud­ing the high­light­ing of su­per­vi­sory re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for care­givers of chil­dren aged un­der eight, and de­vel­op­ing ad­di­tional sig­nage. Mayor Tim Cado­gan had com­mu­ni­cated and met with the par­ents and had ac­knowl­edged their con­cerns and dis­tress.


Cromwell Swim Cen­tre.

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