Improper Care And Maintenance Of Hotel Pool Results In Near-Drowning Of 16-Year-Old High School Student


On the evening of April 6, 1997, Robert, a 16-year-old high school student, was swimming at the ABC Hotel swimming pool in San Antonio, TX. Robert was at the hotel as part of his High School Band Field Trip and was in the water along with other band members at the time of the incident.

Prior to the incident, there were approximately 20 High School students and four Chaperones in the swimming pool area. At approximately 9:15 P.M., Robert was observed lying motionless on the bottom of the swimming pool, in approximately 5′ of water. Robert was recovered from the bottom of the pool by another student. EMS was summoned and Basic Life Support CPR was administered by bystanders who were guests at the hotel. Fire, EMS and Police personnel arrived and Advanced Life Support measures were initiated prior to Robert being transported to University Hospital by EMS.

As a result of this incident, Robert suffered irreversible brain damage.

A site visit was conducted on Thursday, May 27. During this site visit, several digital photographs were taken and the perimeter of the swimming pool and the surrounding deck and building were inspected, including the permanent lighting installations, the filter room, and the outdoor and indoor pool sections. The hotel was closed at the time for repairs, so there was no observable activity in or around the swimming pool or anywhere within the building.

A telephone was mounted on the filter room wall, but since the hotel was closed, we were unable to determine whether the phone provided direct access to an outside line, or whether it connected directly to the switchboard operator or front desk.

There appeared to be an inadequate number of exterior overhead lights around the swimming pool area. Photos taken on the evening of the incident gave the impression the outside pool area was very dark. There was only one underwater light in the outside section of the swimming pool as evidenced by photos taken on the evening of the incident.

Measurements were taken of the water depth which were not consistent with the depth markings on the adjacent walls.

Based on our review of the files and the site visit, it is our opinion that the near-drowning incident of Robert on April 6, 1997 was entirely preventable. The ABC Hotel failed to conform to their own internal standards as described within their Risk Control Plans. They failed to conform to acceptable operational and industry standards and procedures advocated by various national organizations, as well as their local Health District. Had these standards been met, the condition of the water would have been such that Robert’s distress would have been immediately recognized and assistance would have been immediately provided before his condition deteriorated as a result of his unrecognized distress. If the water condition was not acceptable as per the industry standards, the swimming pool should have been immediately closed to all guests.

It was our opinion that the ABC Hotel had a duty to Robert on April 6, 1997 to provide a safe and healthy swimming environment while he was engaged in recreational swimming activities at that property. The ABC Hotel breached that duty by not adhering to industry standards in the operation of their swimming pool resulting in the unrecognized submersion and near-drowning incident of Robert. As a result, Robert suffered physical and neurological trauma causing irreversible brain damage.

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