In July 2009, an 11-year-old girl and her family were enjoying a day at the Knickerbacker Park Pool in Troy. The girl left the shallow end of the pool and entered the deep end. The lifeguards on duty did not immediately see her when she fell to the bottom of the pool and drowned.
A fellow swimmer pulled her out of the pool, but she had stopped breathing. Lifeguards attempted to revive the girl until police and firefighters arrived. She was taken to St. Mary's Hospital, where she never recovered and died about six weeks later.
Since that time, the Rensselaer County and New York State Health Departments compiled an 11-page report on the death. The report only recently became public and the Albany Times Union obtained it through a Freedom of Information request. The report found that there were no violations of the law and that the number of lifeguards on duty complied with legal requirements, despite one witness's statement that lifeguards were not poolside at the time of the drowning.
Although the report did not find any illegal activity, it did identify the likely causes of the drowning. Lifeguards had identified that girl as a non-swimmer, and warned her to stay in the shallow end of the pool, but they lost track of the girl. The report indicates that glare may have affected the lifeguards' ability to see the girl and that a lane stripe at the bottom of the pool may have affected the lifeguards' ability to see the girl at the bottom of the pool.
The report recommended that improvements be made to allow lifeguards to better observe swimmers in order to prevent future drowning incidents. The recommendations include providing portable elevated chairs; having additional roving lifeguards along the pool; ensuring that lifeguards have polarized sunglasses to reduce glare; placing CPR equipment closer to the pool; and continued training of lifeguards to recognize drowning victims.
Source: Albany Times Union, "Drowning report cites glare," Kenneth C. Crowe II, 1/12/2011