19 Reasons for 6 Year Old Drowning at YMCA Pizza Pool Party

Estate of Christopher Branch v. YMCA of Greater Louisville


6-year-old Christopher Branch was enrolled in an evening Pizza Pool Party at the YMCA of Greater Louisville on July 13, 1996. Two lifeguards were on duty at the time of the incident. After the pizza break when children were allowed to return to the swimming pool, Christopher was found floating in the 4.5′ section of the pool and emergency rescue and resuscitation procedures were initiated by lifeguard and YMCA staff until relieved by Paramedic personnel from the Louisville Fire Department. Christopher was transported to Columbia Audobon Hospital where he was pronounced dead by the hospital staff.

Breaches in the Standard of Care

The following breaches were identified that may have contributed to this tragic drowning incident:

  1. The swimming pool had insufficient underwater illumination.
  2. Young children were allowed access to deep water without sufficient adult supervision.
  3. Young children were allowed access to deep water without assessing their swimming proficiency.
  4. Young children were allowed access to deep water without providing an intermediate swimming area or mandating the use and implementation of other safeguards (i.e. PFDs).
  5. The one and only lifeguard stand was positioned at the 9′ deep section of the pool, while the majority of the children were engaged in activities in the 3′ – 5′ section of the pool.
  6. Lifeguards operated without a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Manual.
  7. Lifeguard personnel were not required to use the elevated lifeguard stand and were not positioned in the stand at the time of or prior to the incident.
  8. Facility did not instructor lifeguard personnel on opening and closing procedures of the facility.
  9. Lifeguard personnel were not appropriately supervised during the recreational swim program involving these young children.
  10. No accountability system was implemented to keep track of each participant enrolled in the recreational swim program.
  11. No accountability system was implemented to keep track of each participant enrolled in the Pizza Pool Party.
  12. YMCA allowed their own facility policies to be disregarded which required adult supervision for children ages 6 and under during recreational swimming activities.
  13. Departure from the standard to allow young children the option of wearing or not wearing protective flotation devices during recreational swimming activities in deep water.
  14. Failing to provide supplemental trained staff to supervise recreational swimming activities.
  15. Departure from the standard to provide vigilant and continuous surveillance of the children engaged in recreational swimming activities.
  16. Departure from the standard by allowing lifeguard personnel to abandon their surveillance responsibilities during recreational swimming activities.
  17. Department from the standard by not mandating the use of the elevated stand by lifeguard personnel during recreational swimming activities.
  18. Allowing lifeguard personnel to engage in conversation while providing surveillance services to children during recreational swimming activities.
  19. Not providing site-specific training to lifeguard personnel on risk assessment, surveillance procedures, victim recognition, emergency management, etc.
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