Ques­tions of fam­ily may not get an­swers

In­ves­ti­ga­tion doesn’t show how drown­ing of boy, 6, oc­curred.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Cor­nelius Fro­lik Staff Writer

The fam­ily of the 6-year-old boy who drowned in a Day­ton pool this sum­mer de­manded an­swers about how the July in­ci­dent could hap­pen un­der life­guard su­per­vi­sion. With the in­ves­ti­ga­tion now closed and the re­port re­leased, it’s un­likely those an­swers will be de­liv­ered.

Two cer­ti­fied life­guards were in the pool area at the time that Niguel Hamil­ton drowned, in­clud­ing one who was teach­ing the boy and three other chil­dren as part of a swim class.

But be­cause a se­cu­rity cam­era at the pool wasn’t work­ing the day of the drown­ing and peo­ple present dur­ing the in­ci­dent say they did not see what hap­pened to the boy, no charges will be filed and many ques­tions are unan­swered.

The Day­ton Daily News for months sought the in­ves­tiga­tive re­port about the in­ci­dent, ask­ing ques­tions about staffing, safety pre­cau­tions and whether there was neg­li­gence.

A re­view of those records re­vealed con­flict­ing state­ments about when the boy was last seen be­fore he was found on the bot­tom of the pool and whether staff or by­standers should have seen him in the deep end.

Life­guards say they be­lieved Hamil­ton ex­ited the pool to use the re­stroom after ask­ing his grand­fa­ther about his where­abouts, wit- ness state­ments say. One life­guard was seated in an ele- vated life­guard chair that does not have a clear view of the place Hamil­ton might have last been, po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors found.

Two life­guards and other wit­nesses said there was a re­flec­tive glare on the top of the wa­ter that im­pacted vis­i­bil­ity, and the life­guards said the deep end had some cloudi­ness that also re­duced vis­i­bil­ity.

Drown­ing is one of the lead­ing causes of un­in­ten­tional in­jury deaths for chil- dren 14 and younger, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Drown­ing Preven­tion Al­liance.

“Drown­ing can take place in as lit­tle as 20 to 60 sec­onds, of­ten­times with­out the vic­tim be­ing able to call out for help,” said Adam Katch­marchi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the al­liance.

At­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing Hamil­ton’s fam­ily did not im­me­di­ately re­turn re­quests for com­ment Fri­day.

Shortly be­fore 6:30 p.m. on July 12, Niguel Hamil­ton was one of four chil­dren tak­ing part in a swim class at the Lohrey Recre­ation Cen­ter in southeast Day­ton.

A 29-year-old in­struc­tor told po­lice he had the chil- dren, ages 6 to 9, line up on the south wall of the deep end of the Bel­mont pool, po­lice in­ves­tiga­tive doc­u­ments show.

The in­struc­tor had the chil­dren swim to the north side of the pool with his as­sis­tance. Hamil­ton was the first child the in­struc- tor took across. The in­struc- tor told Hamil­ton to hold onto the wall as he went and as­sisted the other chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to his state­ments to po­lice. But the in­struc­tor said when he re­turned with other kids, Hamil­ton was gone.

The in­struc­tor said he asked a 17-year-old fe­male life­guard who was seated in an el­e­vated life­guard chair if she had seen the boy. The in­struc­tor said the life­guard and boy’s grand­fa­ther said they thought he was in the re­stroom, ac­cord­ing to his state­ment to po­lice.

The life­guard in the chair also said she asked the grand­fa­ther, Wil­lie Hamil­ton, if he saw the child leave, ac­cord­ing to her state­ment. She said the grand­fa­ther thought he was in the bath­room.

Wil­lie Hamil­ton checked the bath­room but did not lo­cate his grand­son. The fe m ale life­guard called for the 25-year-old se­nior life­guard to help with the search, wit­ness state­ments show. He was in the back of­fice.

The in­struc­tor fin­ished the swim lessons and dis­missed the other three chil- dren as the se­nior life­guard and the grand­fa­ther looked for Hamil­ton, wit­ness state­ments in­di­cate. They looked in the re­strooms, the lobby and out­side the build­ing with no suc­cess.

The in­struc­tor at one point walked the perime­ter of the pool deck, scan- ning the wa­ter, but failed to lo­cate the boy, ac­cord­ing to one par­ent. But then the se­nior life­guard spot­ted Hamil­ton at the bot­tom of the pool be­tween the third and fourth lanes, po­lice said.

The se­nior life­guard told po­lice he spot­ted Hamil­ton while stand­ing next to the high guard post where the fe­male life­guard was sit­ting. He later told po­lice he did not be­lieve the pool was cloudy.

Life­guards per­formed CPR on Hamil­ton un­til med­i­cal per­son­nel ar­rived. Hamil­ton was trans­ported to Day­ton Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

His fam­ily said he was brain dead, and he was put on life sup­port. The boy died three days later at the hos- pital.

The day after the drown­ing, a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor got into the pool by the ledge where the in­struc­tor said he last saw Hamil­ton. The in­ves­ti­ga­tor said he was not vis­i­ble to other of­fi­cers if they sat back in the guard chair or were at the ta­bles along the wall or at the side deck be­hind the guard chair.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tor dove to the sec­tion where Hamil­ton was found. He said he was not vis­i­ble to in­ves­ti­ga­tors po­si­tioned at the van­tage points of the life­guards, po­lice records show.

Po­lice tested the grate drains at the bot­tom of the pool and found there was no suc­tion. They tried to re­view sur­veil­lance footage of the in­ci­dent but the se­cu­rity cam­era stopped work­ing that morn­ing, the records show.

Hamil­ton’s grand­fa­ther and an­other adult said they saw Hamil­ton off the div­ing board at the end of the swim lessons. Wil­lie Hamil­ton told the Day­ton Daily News that’s the last time he saw his grand­son.

One par­ent said they last saw Hamil­ton jump off the div­ing board and then be as­sisted to the edge of the pool by the in­struc­tor.

Two other par­ents said they did not see Hamil­ton jump off the div­ing board.

Katch­marchi, with the Na­tional Drown­ing Preven­tion Al­liance, said in gen­eral life­guards should be able to see all ar­eas of their as­signed zones of re­spon­si­bil­ity clearly to per­form their su­per­vi­sion du­ties ef­fec­tively.

“If the pool wa­ter is cloudy and the bot­tom of the pool is not clearly vis­i­ble, the pool should be closed to swim­mers,” he said.

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