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.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:40 AM

djDaemon said:

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.

My question is who knew that the child couldn't swim? Does each parent go up to the lifeguards on duty and tell them which of their children can and can't swim? Is the staff supposed to ask each parent or child whether they can swim, and then remember which are which?

I think it was Carrie who questioned allowing a child who can't swim into a pool that goes up to 4 feet in depth. Is the expectation that the lifeguard would know this and constantly shoo the child into depths he was safe to be in?

So what's the answer? Providing really shallow facilities for people who can't swim? Making everyone wear different color wristbands based on swimming ability, height, etc. and color coding all attractions?

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Sunday, August 9, 2009 9:04 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar

RatherGoodBear said:


I think it was Carrie who questioned allowing a child who can't swim into a pool that goes up to 4 feet in depth. Is the expectation that the lifeguard would know this and constantly shoo the child into depths he was safe to be in?

Nope. My expectation would be that the parent/care giver wouldn't allow a child to play in a pool that slopes down to deeper water when the child cannot swim. Does anyone really think that's ok?


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Monday, August 10, 2009 1:09 PM

I totally agree with you on that, Carrie. Especially in a pool of water where a 3-year old has no concept of where the safe and non-safe areas are. There's no visible boundary and it all looks the same on the surface.

I meant to ask is that the parent's expectation-- that they could put a non-swimming child in a pool like that and expect the lifeguard to keep him within depths he could safely handle.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009 1:11 AM
WildStangAlex's avatar

Well it is up to the lifeguard to make sure everyone in the water is safe. So if that means whistling at the kid and saying the waters too deep so be it. But you're right, Parents in general need to take much more responsibility for their children. As a lifeguard there are a few things that I don't consider my responsibility and those are:

Telling kids they need an adult to be in the hot-tub
Telling kids not to run
Telling kids they are too short for a particular attraction.

I have to do these three every day on the job. I feel these three are the responsibility of the parents alone and should not come down to a lifeguard having to do it for them.


"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
-Joseph Campbell

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:49 AM

Alex, as a lifeguard, how do you know how deep is too deep for everyone who's in the area you're watching? Some 3-year olds can swim decently and would be OK in water up to 3-4 feet deep. The child who drowned obviously wasn't.

Unless waterparks want to start administering swimming tests to everyone who enters-- and the parents agree to have their kids tested at every park they visit-- the only thing the lifeguards have to go on is what the parents will allow their kids to use. If one lifeguard has to continuously watch one child's whereabouts, that means the other lifeguards have proportionally more people to watch.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:32 AM
WildStangAlex's avatar

You can tell a child can't swim in that area when the stop making forward progress in the water and they start to bob up and down, they ask for help, or they become submerged. Most of the time their face shows they are surprised. That is why the first stage(of five) of drowning is called surprise.
This is when an assist or rescue is performed depending on how far the child is from the wall.

You have to scan and look at every single person in the water regardless of their age and/or swimming abilities as it is, so it doesn't take away from your responsibilities. Other lifeguards wouldn't proportionally have to watch more or less guests because they have a different zone. You are responsible for the people inside your zone, and you don't scan other zones unless you are rotating into that zone.


"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
-Joseph Campbell

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