Drowning Prevention is Easy. Adult Supervision is Hard.

Swimming Safety

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatics Safety Expert
For more than 50 years, water safety agencies and child safety advocates have been promoting stronger, more vigilant supervision of children by their parents and care givers. Mantras like touch supervision, reach supervision, active supervision, and more have all been used to emphasize the need for constant, vigilant supervision in and around the water. While we must continue to motivate adults to do a better job of watching their children at pools, waterparks, and open-water areas, we must remember adults are prone to human error and are often distracted from their parental responsibilities. Most people do not appreciate how quick, quiet, and subtle drownings are, and as a result, even the slightest distraction can result in a drowning death. In my professional opinion, distractions are now and are going to become even more of a problem in the future due to handheld technologies and social media available. We already have had drownings occur while the “supervising” adult took pictures of the (soon to be) victim in the water and began sending the images to families and friends without noticing their child slipped beneath the surface and drowned. Continue reading “Drowning Prevention is Easy. Adult Supervision is Hard.”

Fitness Club Settles Quickly with Drowning Victim’s Family

Aquatic Safety Expert

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
Fitness clubs and hotels are often exempt from the lifeguard requirement. Regardless, these businesses still need to protect and safeguard their guests, especially those swimming in their pools, as the swimming pool is the most hazardous area within the confines of the building. Although these swimming pools are typically “Swim At Your Own Risk” swimming pools, they cannot be ignored by staff, owners, and operators. When lifeguards are not employed by Fitness Clubs, frequent patrols of the pools should take place, and the staff should be trained to handle emergencies. Continue reading “Fitness Club Settles Quickly with Drowning Victim’s Family”

Young girl drowns at Family Aquatic Center


A family aquatic center differs from a traditional rectangular swimming pool catering to lap swimmers and swim teams in that it has something for everyone of all ages: fountains, water slides, interactive water toys, and more while still maintaining a competition swimming pool.

In this tragic case a young girl drowned while playing in the shallow water “beach” section of the swimming pool. This case was somewhat unusual in that the 10-year-old girl was actually a fairly good swimmer. At the time of the incident, the young girl was playing with an adult supervisor and other children in waist deep water. At the same time, the aquatic facility was in transition, preparing for a competitive swim meet with parents and swimmers filing into the facility. The competition pool adjacent to the leisure pool was closed to all swimmers prior to the swim meet, while the leisure pool remained open to recreational swimmers and parents. The entire tragic scenario was caught on security camera footage.

Shockingly, while the competition pool was closed, lifeguards were stationed poolside in their lifeguard chairs guarding a completely empty and quiescent competition swimming pool. A concrete peninsula separated the competition pool from the leisure pool and was used as an excellent lifeguard station to provide patron surveillance in the leisure pool. During the drowning sequence, the peninsula was either void of any lifeguards, or two lifeguards would be socializing with each other rather than watching the swimmers. The surveillance video clearly shows the young victim, who was standing in waist deep water, suddenly falling backwards beneath the surface. With one lifeguard wasted on watching an empty competition pool, and two more lifeguards talking to each other on the peninsula, only one lifeguard remained to watch the entire leisure pool with an abundance of people and activity taking place.

No one noticed when the young girl disappeared beneath the surface, and she remained there for several minutes. After an extended period-of-time, two young girls, independently of each other, discovered the young girl motionless on the bottom of the swimming pool. One girl exited the pool and ran to tell her mother, and the other ran to the lifeguard for assistance. The response and resuscitation were too little, too late and the girl died of drowning. There was speculation that the young girl possessed some underlying medical maladies rendering her unconscious quickly; however, lifeguards are trained to look for and detect these sudden illnesses and respond in a timely and professional manner. The surveillance video clearly showed a lifeguard staff which was not properly trained and supervised, thus allowing them to be poorly positioned and inattentive. With clear video footage and an expert report finding the facility had a lack of institutional control over the facility and staff, a large financial settlement was quickly offered to the family.

Where Have All the High Dives Gone? 2018 Update

Aquatic Safety Expert High Dive

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic / Water Safety Expert::::
For the past quarter century, high diving boards (3-meters; ten feet) have been disappearing from public and private swimming pools across the country. This swimming pool staple, which so many middle aged and older Americans learned to love while they were children, is no longer available for their children and grandchildren.
Statistics indicate that springboard diving is a very safe sport. That is because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), USA diving and many other water safety agencies have safety training programs for their coaches and follow strict depth and distance requirements to provide safe “diving envelopes” in the water for divers/jumpers. So what’s the problem?
Far too many three-meter (high dives) were placed in recreational settings without the assistance of qualified coaches and springboard diving agencies. Consequently, numerous falls to unprotected concrete decks below have occurred around the country resulting in death or paralysis. Hence, high dives are quickly becoming dinosaurs. Continue reading “Where Have All the High Dives Gone? 2018 Update”

Little Pool, Big Lawsuit

Aquatic Safety Expert Kiddy Pool

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
Case Synopsis: A large retail store chain along with several other defendants, including the pool manufacturer and a swim-aid swim suit manufacturer, were all sued for a near fatal drowning event of a 2 year old child. The pool in question was extremely small; a true, blow-up kiddy pool holding less than 12 inches of water.
Analysis: The mother of the child placed a “buoyant suit” on the child to keep her afloat, even though the suit, and the packaging which contained it, stated that the suit was not a “life-saving” device or a “life-jacket” and proper parental supervision was still required. Between the shallow water of the swimming pool and the “buoyant” swim suit the child was wearing, the adults in attendance must have become over confident and let their guard down. While in the house, the adults in charge allowed the child to leave the house, unnoticed and unattended. She climbed down the stairs and entered the swimming pool without anyone observing her. After finding her face down in the water, the child remains in a vegetative state. Continue reading “Little Pool, Big Lawsuit”

Another Day Camper Drowns During a Swimming Field Trip


Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatics Consultant ::::
Research indicates more than half of all drownings occurring in the United States happen when groups visit an aquatic facility. Larger groups, whether church groups, school groups, sport camps, day camps, or even birthday parties, all require special attention and extra Layers of Protection when visiting lifeguarded facilities.
Groups visiting swimming pools, particularly during open public swims, create an unforeseen hazard with a classic form of miscommunication. Typically, when camp counselors bring their charges to a guarded swimming pool they tend to relax and socialize rather than supervise their children because professional lifeguards are on duty. Conversely, lifeguards believe the counselors know their campers better than the lifeguards on duty and will watch the children in the water with vigilance. Unless specific “group use policies” are put into place prior to the pool visitation, rather than having double coverage of both lifeguards and counselors watching the campers in the water, double trouble results because no one is watching the children, assuming they’re someone else’s responsibility.
Continue reading “Another Day Camper Drowns During a Swimming Field Trip”

Waterpark Tragedy

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
A child of tender years attended a birthday party at a popular water park. Prior to the party, the young boy was engaged in swimming lessons; however, not a comfortable and confident swimmer yet. The boy usually wore a life jacket when swimming with family and friends.
On this tragic day, the family took the young boy with his siblings to a pool party; however, they forgot to bring his life jacket. As often happens at pool parties, the parents lost track of their son. The young boy somehow accessed deep water over his head, and drowned, although no one in the facility noticed him.
Continue reading “Waterpark Tragedy”

Young Boy Drowns at Guarded Pond

Aquatics Expert Witness

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic/Water Safety Expert ::::
In this case study, an Aquatics Expert was requested to determine if the certified lifeguard on duty was properly supervising local a swimming pond.
A church group held a picnic at a local swimming pond owned and operated by a municipality. While the group gathered in the picnic pavilion, children went to the nearby pond to swim.
A young boy wanted to swim with his playmates and an older youth in the group offered to watch the young boy for his parents.
Although there was a certified lifeguard on duty, he was ill-prepared to protect these children of tender years. Adults in attendance noticed that the lifeguard talked and texted on his cell phone while on duty. Testimony indicated he was not supervised or in-serviced during the summer. When the child was reported missing, he was reluctant to perform a water search and incapable of organizing the adults to conduct the same. The child was eventually found submerged in shallow water, in close proximity to the lifeguard on duty. Continue reading “Young Boy Drowns at Guarded Pond”

Boy Drowns in Hotel Pool, Lighting a Major Cause

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D, Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
A young boy attended a swimming pool gathering of playmates at a large downtown hotel in a major city. The pool was in an isolated portion of the hotel on the upper floors. While a husband and wife were in charge of watching the young boys play in the water, they also were taking care of their own small toddlers in and out of the swimming pool. The pool was characterized by a deep end (10 feet), which once housed a diving board. These pools are especially dangerous because too often, when a distressed swimmer finds themselves in the deep end, others in attendance cannot rescue them in a timely fashion. As it turned out, the boys were playing dangerous breath-holding games when one of the boys became unconscious and slipped beneath the surface in the deep end of the pool. Continue reading “Boy Drowns in Hotel Pool, Lighting a Major Cause”