Massachusetts makes changes after pool drowning unnoticed

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2011 4:43 PM
Massachusetts makes changes after pool drowning unnoticed

By Zach Howard

CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - State officials on Wednesday fired three pool managers and ordered statewide policy changes regarding water clarity and inspections as a result of a woman's drowning in a Fall River pool last month.

Marie Joseph, 36, disappeared into deep, cloudy water after going down a slide at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Swimming Pool on June 26, and her body remained in the water unnoticed for two days until passersby alerted police.

Poor water clarity, in part, prevented lifeguards from "being alerted to the drowning and from subsequently detecting Ms. Joseph on the bottom of the pool after she submerged," the state Department of Conservation and Recreation said in issuing preliminary results of its investigation into the case.

The agency said two lifeguards, not one, should have been monitoring the pool's deep end, due to busy activity that day.

It also said the pool should not have opened on June 26, the day Joseph drowned, because of the murky water.

The pool remained open to visitors as usual on June 27 and 28, while her body lay undetected at the bottom.

The agency said it is boosting safety protocols at all its pools by refining water clarity tests and mandating "in-the-water" inspections by lifeguards.

DCR Commissioner Edward Lambert ordered six water slides at DCR pools, including the one at Fall River, closed pending further review, as well.

Police in June said Joseph, a resident of Fall River, about 50 miles south of Boston, may have had an accident on a slide at the pool, citing a 9-year-old boy she was caring for that day.

The boy said Joseph accidentally went down the slide and landed on top of him, then went underwater and failed to surface, police said. The boy said he informed lifeguards as to what happened but that they did not find Joseph, police said.

Three employees have resigned at the request of the DCR commissioner, and the rest of the pool staff has been placed on leave as the investigation continues.

The pool has been closed since June 29, the day after Joseph was found.

(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Peter Bohan)