Drowning at Private Lake and Camp Community Leads to Major Settlement


Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D. ::::

Case Synopsis: A young, non-swimming female drowned while attending a private, lakeside camp community – a tragic event easily preventable.  The private camp community offered two different beach areas for members: one was a shallow water beach area for toddlers and young, non-swimmers, while the other was a deep water dock area reserved for swimmers only.  Although the lifeguard on duty knew that the victim in this case could not swim, she allowed the youngster, while sitting on a “noodle”, to enter the deep, dark water designated for swimmers only.

Analysis: The child was attempting to reach the deep water rafts located on the perimeter of the swimming area.  With the lifeguard and the mother watching, the young girl slipped off the noodle and quickly disappeared below the surface.  After delaying initially, the lifeguards then responded with an underwater search.  Because the lake was both deep and dark, the lifeguards had difficulty finding the child.  Unfortunately, when the lifeguards did find her, it was too late and the child succumbed to drowning.

Conclusion: Although there were more than twenty breaches in the standard of care, the most significant included the following:

  • Lack of a “Note & Float” policy for non-swimmers, which requires wearing lifejackets
  • Failure to keep non-swimmers in the safe confines of the shallow water beach
  • Not providing mask, fins and snorkels for lifeguards to make effective rescues in the lake
  • Lack of water safety signage
  • Allowing non-swimmers to enter the deep section of lake without a lifejacket
  • Failure to either eliminate or reduce the hazards of the deep and dark lake through effective and recognized aquatic risk management strategies
  • Failure to provide pre-season training, in-service training and emergency action plane training for lifeguards employed at lake

(Tom Griffiths, Ed.D, can be reached at 215-659-2010 or via email at experts@forensicDJS.com.)


Categories: Case Studies


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