Floating Log Attracts 7 Year Old To Fateful Drowning

To v. City of Coeur D’Alene, et. Al.

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On or about Thursday, June 21, 2001, seven-year-old Jerry Ly drowned while playing at City Park in Lake Coeur d’Alene. At the time of the incident, there were six Coeur d’Alene lifeguards on duty at City Park. Jerry had been playing in the water at City Park, along with other children from the St. Margaret Shelter in Spokane, Washington and was being supervised by an adult resident of that shelter. A log had floated into or adjacent to the swimming area and was lodged against the swim boundary buoy line and piling. Just prior to the incident, Jerry had been playing on and around that log.

Jerry was observed floating face down at the surface of the water in approximately 3.5′ of water by Miranda Boyd, a patron at City Park. Miranda pulled Jerry from the water while waving and screaming for assistance and then handed Jerry to her friend, Richard Seidel. Richard continued to remove the child from the water and placed him on a towel and continued yelling for help. Kevin Haughton was walking on Centennial Trail and heard Miranda and Richard yelling for help. He hooked down the beach toward the water and saw a crowd of people around a small child who was lying on a towel on the beach. Kevin then ran to the child and initiated CPR until he was relieved by an off-duty police officer and responding Police and EMS personnel. Jerry was then transported by EMS personnel to Kootenai Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

The City of Coeur d’Alene owned and operated City Park and staffed this facility with lifeguard personnel. The park was equipped with four (4) elevated lifeguard stands that were designed to provide lifeguard personnel with an elevated vantage point in order to provide effective surveillance of patrons in the water and on the beach. Prior to and during this incident, City Park was staffed with six (6) lifeguards, but only 2 of the 4 stands were occupied, and 4 lifeguards were inside the lifeguard shack.

The City had the responsibility of hiring, training, and supervising their lifeguard staff. However, when the incident occurred, the lifeguards failed to respond appropriately and failed to provide basic life support care to Jerry Ly. Although City Park was a USLA-certified beach, the USLA criteria required for certification was not met in that the lifeguards were not equipped with the resuscitation equipment and communication equipment required by USLA standards.

The training, direction, equipment, and supervision of the lifeguard personnel was entirely ineffective. Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines were non-existent, and the lifeguard personnel were not prepared properly or equipped to respond to this incident. Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) were not developed for this type of incident, and lifeguard personnel were not adequately or effectively drilled to respond to this type of incident.

The City Park lifeguards failed to prevent this incident. Prior to Jerry’s submersion, he had been playing near the piling and on the log adjacent to the piling. The City Park lifeguards failed to recognize the danger associated with this type of physical hazard and the risks associated with this type of activity. They failed to remove or warn patrons of this hazard, and they failed to prevent Jerry from engaging in this activity that placed him at increased risk of injury and/or drowning.

The City Park lifeguards failed to use effective surveillance protocols and failed to recognize the incident. Jerry Ly’s distress (i.e. unconscious and floating face-down in the water) was observed by an untrained patron, rather than by trained and certified lifeguard personnel. Although there were several hundred patrons on the beach and/or in the water, only two lifeguard stands were manned at the time of the incident. Four lifeguards were in the lifeguard shed prior to and when the incident occurred.

The lifeguard positioned in stand #4, the closest stand to the incident scene, failed to observe Jerry’s distress. When Miranda rescued Jerry and removed him from the water and passed him along to Richard, this action went unnoticed by the lifeguard. When Miranda and Richard screamed for help, although Kevin, who was walking on the trail behind the lifeguard stand, heard the commotion, the lifeguard in stand #4 did not. When Kevin initiated CPR on Jerry, this too went unnoticed by the lifeguard in stand #4.

Prior to the incident, the lifeguards failed to perform radio checks of their communication equipment. When the incident occurred, the lifeguards in stands #3 and #4 were unable to communicate with each other or other lifeguards via the use of their radios. The lifeguards in these two stands had no other means to alert the lifeguards in the lifeguard shack and had to physically run away from the beach and into the shack to alert the other lifeguards of this incident.

Once the incident was recognized, the lifeguards failed to manage the incident appropriately. No incident command or control was taken by any lifeguard. No lifeguard intervened with emergency resuscitation treatment. No barrier devices were offered by the lifeguards to the patrons who were attempting to resuscitate Jerry.

As a result of the City Park lifeguards’ failure to prevent this incident; their failure to recognize the potential for this incident, as well as the incident itself; and their failure to appropriately and effectively manage the incident, Jerry Ly died as a result of a prolonged submersion that went undetected by lifeguard personnel for several minutes. And, once the incident was finally recognized by lifeguard personnel, the City Park lifeguards failed to appropriately respond and manage this incident and failed to administer appropriate Basic Life Support care prior to the arrival of Law Enforcement and EMS personnel.

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