Lifeguard blamed for swimming pool death

By Michael Mokoena Time of article published Jan 28, 2013

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Kimberley - Mystery surrounds the death of a 13-year-old boy who drowned at a public swimming pool next to the Social Centre in Galeshewe over the weekend.

While several community members, who were at the swimming pool at the time of the incident, claimed that negligence by the lifeguard personnel at the pool led to the boy’s death, others said that he was pushed into the water by some of his friends.

The boy has been identified as 13-year-old Lethlogonolo Kok. The police are investigating his death.

“The lifeguard and the three people he works with, were not anywhere close to the pool when the children were playing in the water,” local resident, Lee-Ann Links, said.

“If the lifeguard was doing his work . . . walking in circles around the pool and monitoring the children in the water, this tragedy could have been averted,” Links, who was one of the adults at the swimming pool shortly before the incident, said.

“There were close to 50 children in the pool and they were all just having fun. The lifeguard was busy chasing away children who where trying to sneak into the swimming pool through the broken fence. When he was not doing that he was chatting with his colleagues and allegedly drinking alcohol,” Links claimed.

Although no evidence could be provided, Links’ allegation that the lifeguard and his colleagues were drinking alcohol while the children were playing in the pool without supervision, were supported by several other community members who were also at the pool at the time of the incident.

But the lifeguard and his female colleague rejected the allegations. “No alcohol entered these premises,” a female colleague stated.

Links explained that shortly before the incident, she played with the children in the pool at the shallow end, but when the children around her started to increase in numbers, she moved towards the deeper end of the pool where there was ample space for her to swim.

“Many of us did not see how the child (Kok) drowned but it was only after the lifeguard pulled him out of the water that we got out of the swimming pool,” another witness said.

Another community member said that the fact that “there were so many children in the swimming pool all at once is a problem . . . the lifeguard is supposed to monitor this number because if there are too many people in the pool, one of them could disappear under the water and you would not even notice this until its too late”.

When the DFA arrived at the scene, Kok’s family members were in a state of shock. Kok’s body was still lying next to the swimming pool covered with a blanket. Police officers were also on the scene.

The swimming pool’s water was green and at the deep end the bottom of the pool was not visible.

Several children, some as young as nine, who were earlier swimming in the pool, were standing by against a wall. “The children were playing and one of them could have pushed him (Kok) into the water,” a group of them told the DFA.

Kok’s older sister, who did not provide her name, sat on a bench with several family members and friends and cried uncontrollably when her brother’s body was taken away.

“Last time I saw him alive was earlier today (Saturday) when he and my other brothers left the house. He was doing Grade 8 this year,” she stated.

She was then taken away by family members and friends. “Please do not ask us any further questions because you can see how devastated we all are,” one person said.

The lifeguard, who introduced himself as Dulah Mohammed, and one of his female colleagues (who did not give her name), rejected claims that they used alcohol at the pool on Saturday.

“There was no alcohol on the swimming pool premises... that is a lie,” the woman stated.

Mohammed confirmed that, at the time of the incident, he was walking around the pool trying to prevent children from sneaking into the premises. He added that Kok was already dead when he pulled him out of the water.

“I really do not know what happened,” he said.

When asked how many children were in the swimming pool at the time of the incident, the lifeguard said that “there were many . . . but I’m not sure how many . . . perhaps 40 children’.

Spokesman for the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, yesterday said that the incident was unfortunate.

“We are also noting the allegations made against the lifeguard and some of our members on the issue of alcohol and we will investigate them,” Matsie stated.

He said that the swimming pool would only be closed for police investigations after which it will be reopened again for public use.

“We urge parents to stop their children from sneaking into the swimming pool, even after hours, because it can lead to the tragic loss of lives,” Matsie explained.

Asked about the condition of the water at the swimming pool, Matsie said that “we have a proper supply of chemicals and we believe that the swimming pool is being cleaned on a daily basis”.

“The only problem is that there is so many people using the pool at once during this time of the year so it can be expected that the water’s PH level can be affected,” Matsie stated.

He said that according to the report given to him by the lifeguard at the pool, there were 60 children and 30 adults at the pool on Saturday.

“He told me that he was patrolling the area on foot around the pool and noticed something lying motionlessly on the bottom of the pool. He dived in and noticed that it was a child lying on the pool floor. He retrieved the body, but was unable to resuscitate him,” Matsie added.

Northern Cape police spokesman Lieutenant Sergio Kock said that they were investigating Kok’s death.

“An autopsy will be performed to confirm the exact cause of death.”

He added that anyone with information regarding the incident can contact Constable Habana at 053 807 6000 or 10 111. The investigation continues.

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