Lifeguards Allegedly Fail to Rescue Drowning Woman At Water Park

Michael Morgenstern

Written by
— Updated on October 10, 2017

water parkThis case involves an elderly female who drowned at a water park.  The decedent was swimming with her young children, holding onto a rope that is attached to a dock with buoys hanging along them. On the dock was a stand with a lifeguard. The decedent was wading up and down and at one point she did not re-emerge from the water. Her children began screaming for help and the lifeguard dove in to rescue the children who were screaming. The children did not mention their mother until after they were back on shore. They informed the lifeguard that there mother was below water and the lifeguards went back in to search for her. She was found approximately 15 minutes after she had gone missing. She was already dead and could not be resuscitated. It was later discovered she had a BAC of .075 and remnants of cocaine in her system. The Plaintiff alleges that the lifeguards were not properly trained, were not competent, and failed to see the woman and pull her out of the water in a timely manner. The defendant contends the decedent did not take any noticeable actions, such as making noise and / or thrashing about the water and she simply went under due to complications of alcohol, cocaine and being in the water for an hour. The defense seeks an expert to evaluate and testify on the actions of the lifeguards and the facility in managing the lifeguards.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What is your experience with Aquatic operations?
  • 2. How do you ensure the safety of the patrons?
  • 3. Was there anything further that could have been done to save the life of the decedent?

Expert Witness Response E-008835

To improve safety, you must develop prevention strategies designed to prevent incidents, which includes the strategic positioning of qualified lifeguard personnel. Further, you need to provide site-specific continuous in-service training for the lifeguards in order to qualify them, rather than just certify them. Also, you need to be able to recognize the incident when it occurs as well as the possibility of it occurring. Lastly, you need to be able to safely and effective manage the incident. These things combined will make patrons safer while they are engaged in aquatic recreation activities, but you cannot guarantee their safety. We also advocate the need for the facility to conduct a Threat Assessment to determine the physical hazards that exist, to assess those activities that place patrons at heightened risk, and to determine the level of operational capability required of your personnel based on this threat assessment. You must then Plan for, Train for, and acquire the resources required to safely and effectively Manage incidents in and around the water and facility. Some victims do not display any signs of a struggle and simply submerge, especially if the victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In order to intervene quickly during an emergency, the lifeguard is depends upon credible witnesses to report the problem and identify the last seen point. If there is any delay in doing so, the victim is destined to a poor outcome. Once the victim, however, has been located and removed from the water, it is critical that appropriate and effective Basic Life Support care be provided including positive pressure ventilation, using a bag-valve-mask resuscitator, oxygen administration, airway management, chest compression, and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator. However, if the victim has been submerged for a period exceeding 6 minutes, there is very little chance of being able to successfully resuscitate this patient.

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