“Supervision” v. “Passive Supervision” in Child Drownings



Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert
An extended family met at a popular resort hotel in a sunbelt state. The hotel had multiple, well maintained pools located throughout their property.
According to an independent inspection of the facilities, no health code violations or standards of care for resort pools were committed. Fencing, self-closing self-latching gates, rescue equipment, and emergency phone were all in place.
As is customary for these types of pools, swimming is: “At your Own Risk” and “No Lifeguard is on Duty.” These signs were also prominently displayed around the pool. Bar staff, waiters, and recreation directors were also stationed at the pools, but no lifeguards were on duty. The adults in this family decided to rest in their rooms on the third floor, but not before dropping their two young sons off at the pool. Not long after the boys were left, without parental supervision, the youngest boy fell unconscious beneath the “shallow water” pool surface; a depth of less than five feet. The older boy frantically attempted to reach his brother until pool patrons noticed the commotion and responded by pulling the child out of the pool and beginning resuscitative efforts. After the incident occurred, the adult family members claimed that they were watching their boys from a third-floor balcony; however, conflicting testimony revealed they were all sleeping at the time. An undisclosed financial settlement was reached quickly in this case. Apparently, adults either don’t understand, or, take too lightly what “supervision” means. Supervision around the water requires close, active supervision within arm’s reach of the child. In this case as in many others, parents were practicing “passive supervision” from afar, which is totally inadequate and unsafe. Parents if you are more than an arm’s length away, you’ve gone too far!
Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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