Drowning at Kalahari Sandusky raises questions about lifeguard coverage

Posted Tuesday, August 4, 2009 10:13 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Regulators may never know whether Kalahari Water Park had enough lifeguards on duty when a Detroit-area boy drowned on Sunday, a top safety official said Monday. State regulations require at least two lifeguards for a pool of that size - it's a bit smaller than two NBA basketball courts - and a third lifeguard if more than 50 people are in it, the official said.

Read more from The Plain Dealer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 10:57 AM

So the mom wasn't in the pool with her 3and 6 year old kids, and yet this article focus's on how many life guards should have been at the pool. Amazing. If anything, the state should be investigating these parents, not Kalahari.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009 11:18 AM

Yes, they are being investigated because they have had several citations in the past for not having enough lifeguards on duty. That makes total sense to me in this case. And if it is found that they were not short on coverage, more power to them.

I know it's deemed insensitive to chastise a grieving parent, but in this case I am also astounded by the circumstance. This mother allowed her 3-year old to play in a pool by himself that slopes down toward the deep end when she knew he couldn't swim. That makes no sense whatsoever.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009 4:51 PM

Inadequate pool coverage not withstanding, I'm not sure I can draw any conclusions beyond "stuff happens." Very sad.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009 11:09 PM

Of course the coverage is in question, but even if there were an inadequate number of guards on duty, why did it take soooooo long for a lifeguard to see this? Certainly the child should have been in adult supervision and should have had a lifejacket on, but ultimately it is up to the lifeguards to cover their water and make up for non-attentive parents. That's why they are called lifeguards- they guard people from danger.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:21 AM

Well, if their own plan calls for 3 guards and they only had two there is going to be some culpability on the part of Kalahari. At the same time I have to believe there would be contributory negligence on the part of the parents which may limit any type of monetary damages.

Either way...I go to the beach and unguarded pools regularly with my 6 and 3 year olds. If you think for one minute that they are more than a lunging distance from me at any time you are on crack.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:35 AM

And that's a large part of the problem, at an unguarded pool parents are more likely to watch their kids even more closely. Where as at a guarded pool parents assume that the guard will watch their kid and let them run around unattended. Whereas the guard is not watching an individual kid, they are watching 100's of kids and adults.

From working in multiple indoor waterparks I have seen that most parents expect the lifeguard to be a babysitter, but if your kid is unattended and doing something wrong, then the lifeguards attention is placed on your kid, while someone else is not being observed.

I will say that not all adults are like this, but the ones who are, are the ones who stand out and cause the problems.

Last edited by Morté615, Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:36 AM
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 12:17 PM

Then I must be on crack. My guess is you get distracted and don't even realize it. Something along the line of your 6 year old wanting to show you he/she can do something cool, you look up to watch and it takes him/her 10 seconds to remember what they were going to show you. Meanwhile in those 10 seconds your 3 year old sneaks away from your side. Oops.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 12:18 PM

At the Comfort Inn in Mansfield oh, they have a small waterpark complex (1 slide, good sized pool, two hot tubs and one of those bucket drencher things.)

They have no lifegaurd present. They first time we went, i asked why they didn't have one. Basically they explained that when they did have one, there was always trouble. Now, it's all in the parents hands and if anything short of someting falling apart and injuring someone, they have no problems anymore.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 12:34 PM

Shades said:
Meanwhile in those 10 seconds your 3 year old sneaks away from your side. Oops.

Except we're not talking about a few seconds here, or even a minute. Two to five minutes is a long time, especially when we're talking about a child who can't swim.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 12:41 PM

I agree that 2-5 minutes is really long. My point was that it can only take a few seconds to lose track of someone and it can happen to anyone. With a small child who you know can't swim the reaction time to start frantically searching for the child should have been much shorter than a few minutes.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 1:29 PM

Actually, for me the issue is beyond that. I don't question how easy it is to lose track of a child, especially a wandering 3-year old. I also don't question the response time on searching for this child was likely right on target and more than reasonable.

I'm stuck on the idea of allowing a 3-year old to play in a pool that slopes down toward the deep end without making them water safe first (i.e. teaching them how to swim, putting "floaties" on his arms, etc). That's the problem for me.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 1:54 PM

I see it as a combination.

If the child can't swim, or doesn't have a flotation device, the reaction/response time should be pretty close to zero. Much in the same way you don't let go of the bike seat when a kid is learning to ride, despite the fact that them falling won't kill them.

If the child can swim, then yeah, a few minutes of no supervision isn't unreasonable.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 11:38 PM

My problem still lies with the guards. I work at an indoor water park myself. Parents are negligent, I've accepted that. They think that they can drop their kid in the pool and go sip drinks in the bar. The number one person responsible for that child is a lifeguard. This is why we (at my facility) spend so much time training, re-training, practicing, and perfecting our Vigilance and Rescue techniques.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009 11:54 PM

You see that's where I don't agree, and my former manager's didn't either. Lifeguards are not baby sitters. It is the parent's responsibility to monitor their kids and make sure they are behaving. All the lifeguard is there for is to step in, in case of an emergency.

But because some parents see this person (who they assume is responsible) standing over the water, they think that their kids will be alright if they relax their own vigilance, or even worse just walk off to do something else. And if the guards are too busy watching for misbehaving kids, or making sure that toddlers go down the kiddie slide one at a time, then they are not watching the water.

And as I stated in the other thread, it can take as little as 38 seconds for a kid to drown!! Can you say that no corner of the pool is unwatched for 38 seconds the entire day.. Hell our scans were supposed to be done in 20 seconds but depending on the crowd could take longer, or you just glance over the area without really looking, and potentially miss something.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009 12:01 AM

I really didn't realize someone could drown that fast. I guess it makes sense if they offer no defense and just breathe in the water. I assumed (wrongly obviously) that the body has enough natural defenses toward drowning that it would take longer.

Now I know why I've always had a healthy fear of the stuff! ;)

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Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:13 PM

Ive read somewhere that 1 teaspoon of water that makes it into your lungs is enough to kill an adult.

Carrie your body does have defenses (coughing, cillia, mucus, epiglottis, etc.) but they are not designed to be used in the water. We humans are land animals and thus have evolved in a way that best suits us living on land.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:22 PM

I'm sorry, but did you just explain to me that humans are not meant to breathe in water? Were you thinking I was confused about that or something? :)

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Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:23 PM

No, just trying to point out that while we have fantastic defenses to stop water from entering our lungs, they just dont work when we go and put ourselves under water ;).

And humans can breathe in water they just need scuba gear or better yet gillyweed ;).

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Saturday, August 8, 2009 12:49 AM

Morté615 said:


All the lifeguard is there for is to step in, in case of an emergency.

My point exactly, so if that is what a lifeguard is for, then why didn't the lifeguard step in sooner, in the case of the Kalahari accident?

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