What can you learn from this drowning tradgedy at a major waterpark?

Recently a 5-year-old girl drown at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. A patron, who is a retired urgent care nurse found the child and was administering CPR before lifeguards took over. She was then forbidden to assist due to Atlantis protocol.

The news story that resulted and the comments of people who were there and not there are a great illustration of what can happen after a tragic incident such as this. What do you think about the Atlantis handled this situation? Have you had similar experience? What can you learn from this?

Please share any insight and help other aquatic professionals better prepare for a tragedy such as this one.

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Wait!  The incident happened on Wednesday, April 13; the newspaper account said the child died on Thursday.  This means she was alive when the EMS took over, she was alive at the hospital, and alive when the emergency room Drs. got her.  Is this poor performance of the lifeguards, or a medical reaction to a near drowning which unfortunately far too common; the victim seemingly survives and is sometimes improving, but dies later in the hospital.  Unfortunately the staff are now in a no-win situation.  They are damned if they did everything right and damned if they made a mistake.


For all the support given Drs. amd nurses in the comments, give me an EMT or a paramedic any day.  Let's talk about "experience."  I would venture a guess that most lifeguards in pools with a good in-service program should be performing CPR drills much more frequently than most Drs. and nurses outside of the emergency room.  In addition, the article mentioned they had an AED which would be far superior to CPR, and should refuse to administer a shock except when there was a proper heart condition requiring a shock.


I can't comment on the event specifically, but the situation was no-win for the resort.  I also find it interesting that a well-qualified nurse would be so quick to criticize.  I want to hear from these supposed doctors.


I certainly think any pool facility should learn somethng from this tragedy.  I think if nothing else, documentation of a good in-service program, including CPR drills, is something that would be very important.

A group of us at West Bend sat down and discussed this tragic story. This is a scenario we hadn't specifically addressed before, so we wanted to make sure we got it just right.

Here is our response... Who Knows Best: Doctor or Lifeguard?

In short, we feel the waterpark lifeguards did not handle this appropriately.

Wow, what a mess. I just read your comments Gary, the article and 33 people's comments. If you can get past the "nurse who could have saved the child" if allowed to provide care, the lifeguards that have to follow policy which does not allow them to let "non employees" take care of their patrons experiencing critical incidents, the parents that should have been with their 5 year old child in the pool, the bashing of Bahamian lifeguards by US Lifeguards and the reverse from the Bahamina Lifeguards, and the basic inability of anyone involved to consider that drowning is a numbers game complicated by human factors, Then you might be able to try and sort this out.


How come nobody wrote an article surrounding the numerous comments from people that have seen Lifeguards asleep at this place in the past? Do they understand that even though we cover pool areas with lifeguards so many fail to respond or provide proper care?


This is just another tragic case of someone drowning in a Lifeguarded pool which in my opinion is unacceptable.



Is this the 6-26/27-2010 incident with Atlantis in Kentucky, USA. Or something new??

I have to agree with Jim that the article and it's subsequent comments seems to be a lot of finger-pointing and no real discussion of corrective action that can be taken both at Atlantis and around the industry to help prevent this all to common occurrence from happening again.  I have to say that in my opinion both parties (the nurse/doc and the resort) are partially at fault.  Nowhere in the article is there discussion of the parties working TOGETHER.  In addition to running my facility I am also an EMT for one of our local volunteer Fire Dept.s and I work hard to train our Lifeguards how to work WITH other professional rescuers.  In the past 12 months our facility has had two incidents of children needing emergency oxygen (one water related and one not), and an ambulance response.  In both incidents a critical care nurse (a regular member here) was on-scene and offered her assistance using our stethoscope to listen to lung sounds, and assisting the Lifeguards and Paramedics to monitor vitals.  I'm glad to say that both incidents ended well with the children needing no further care and being released back into the care of their guardians.  Patrons who happen to be medical professionals bring an excellent skill set and knowledge base to an emergency situation, but they don't (usually) have the equipment on-hand to be of as much help as if they were on duty.  They also have no duty-to-act which the Lifeguards do, which means that regardless of the presence of higher certified good samaritans the Lifeguards would still need to provide some level of care, even if that care was assisting in the administration of CPR, AR, etc.

Greta point Nick, use the expertise if you have available if they are a "known" professioanl and you have equipment that can help leverage their expertise.


Greg - This happen in the Bahama's I think the link is in Gary's original post.

This is such a tragedy, but an important oppportunity for us all to check in with our policies and procedures using this scenario as a "what if?" I am currently in discussions with my aquatic supervisory staff and the City attorneys and I must say the discussions are interesting.
I'm going to guess that initially everyone thinks that the only ones administering care should be the employees?
Yes, but should that always be the case? Hum, I don't know?

Not necessarily.  The issue lies in A) is the the employee turning over all care and decision making? and B) recognizing that not all individuals in the medical field are equal. 


Just because there's a medical professional present, it doesn't absolve the lifeguard of the responsibility for the victim.  And there's a huge difference between a nurse for a family doctor in a private practice, and a nurse in the ER.  And there's a huge difference in a volunteer firefighter with an EMT-B, who may rarely respond to an emergency, and a Paramedic who is actively working in the field.


Lifeguards have to take all this into account (albeit quickly) when deciding on allowing bystanders to assist.

I would not allow my staff to turn over any part of care for any customer in our facility to an unknown individual. Their training cannot be validated in the seconds needed to respond to the incident, so I would have my staff ask them to step aside. Now, if there was an emergency room doctor or nurse that regularly swam at our facility, that all of our staff know well, and know they are an ER doctor or nurse, then I would allow their assistance if offered.


My staff who are practicing resuscitation skills at in-services at least twice a month are probably more adequately trained to handle that situation than any typical doctor or nurse that does not regularly "at least monthly" practice resuscitation skills.


There is never a guarantee that resuscitation is going to be successful, the biggest mistake at this facility was that a lifeguard failed to recognize the little girl in distress. Drownings at lifeguarded pools are unacceptable, not because of any resuscitation efforts, but because of the failure to recognize a distressed swimmer.



I agree with your assessment on the last paragraph. More focus is needed to determine why prevention and recognition failed. Notwithstanding a pre-existing medical condition it is difficult to justify this drowning.


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