3-year-old Child Drowns in Guarded Pool in Front of Lifeguard in Elevated Stand


3-year-old Tarah was swimming at the Community Pool when she was observed lying on the bottom of the shallow end of the pool, directly in front of the lifeguard stand.

Tarah had been brought to the pool by her mother, who had lost sight of her prior to this incident. Tarah was reported to have attempted to cross under the lifeline at the 3.5’ section of the pool when she supposedly became entangled in the lifeline.

At approximately 16:10 hrs., 19-year-old Lifeguard Smith had been stationed in the elevated lifeguard stand at the shallow end of the pool, while Lifeguard Jones was situated in the deep end lifeguard stand. Lifeguard Smith was alerted to the emergency by other patrons who found Tarah in approximately 3.5’ of water on the pool bottom. Lifeguard Smith immediately blew 3 blasts of her whistle to alert the other lifeguards and patrons to the emergency. Then, Lifeguard Smith evacuated her stand to rescue Tarah, while Lifeguard Jones proceeded to clear everyone out of the swimming pool.

17-year-old Lifeguard Ahern had been in the pool office when she heard the emergency whistle signal and then responded to assist Lifeguard Smith. As Lifeguard Smith was removing Tarah from the water, she instructed Lifeguard Ahern to retrieve the backboard, which she did. Lifeguard Smith then assessed Tarah to be in full cardiac arrest with a compromised airway from vomitus in and around her mouth.

Lifeguard Smith instructed others to call 911, and then initiated rescue breathing while Lifeguard Ahern initiated chest compressions. The first 911 call was placed by a patron from her cell phone at 16:14 hrs.

A second call to 911 was placed by Lifeguard Casey at 16:15 hrs.

Swim Coach Ralph Bellan had been in the pool office when he was alerted to the incident by the emergency whistles. He called 911 at 16:17 hrs. and reported the incident to the 911 dispatcher. He then proceeded to open up the emergency gate and to clear vehicles from that area for the incoming responding emergency units, and continued to do so until he was relieved by a police officer.

After Lifeguards Smith and Ahern initiated CPR, Roger Campbell, a medical Doctor who was at the pool at the time of the incident, took over compressions from Lifeguard Ahern and assisted Lifeguard Smith in the administration of CPR. Both Lifeguard Smith and Dr. Campbell continued CPR until Fire/EMS personnel arrived and assumed care. During the CPR, Lifeguard Tracy Applewhite, who had been in the office when the emergency incident began, assisted in crowd control.

Louise Butterfield had also been in the pool office when the incident occurred. Once she saw Lifeguards Smith and Ahern performing CPR, she then assisted with crowd control.

Lifeguard Smith reported to police that Tarah had been wearing a mask that covered her mouth and nose when she was found on the pool bottom. Another child patron, who had been in the pool at the time of the incident, reported to the police that he had seen Tarah on the pool bottom approximately two (2) minutes before the incident, but did not report it to anyone as he did not realize anything was wrong at the time.

Lifeguard Smith had been employed as a lifeguard for 4 seasons and this was her first CPR incident. She reported that there had been 10 – 15 children in the pool at the time of the incident, although other reports indicate there were approximately 50 people in the pool and another 50 on the deck at the time of this incident. Prior to and during the incident there were four (4) lifeguards on duty. Lifeguard Smith was in the shallow-end lifeguard stand. Lifeguard Jones was in the deep end chair. Lifeguards Ahern and Casey were in the lifeguard office, as was Swim Coach Bellan.

Fire Rescue units were dispatched to the scene at 16:15:01 hrs. and were enroute at 16:16:53 hrs. EMS arrived on scene at 16:20:41 hrs. and assumed patient care. Tarah was flown by helicopter to Trauma Hospital where she arrived at 16:58 hrs. She was pronounced dead in the Emergency Department at 17:22 hrs.

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