Another School Drowning, Another Negligent Lifeguard

We were made aware of yet another school drowning however the details surrounding this fatality are extremely troubling to say the least as you will see. This story was brought to our attention as per the Chicago Sun Times.

The incident we are now bringing to you happened on January 25th, 2017 at Kennedy High School in Chicago but we are just now getting wind of this due to the fact that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has tried very hard to suppress this incident from the media but until now have been unsuccessful. Thanks to “The Watchdogs” investigative journalists, Katie Drews and Lauren Fitzpatrick, now the world will know what happened on that fateful day in January 2017. CPS can no longer keep this incident under wraps.

This incident is especially troubling for us because it involves the fatality of a 14-year-old autistic boy, a special education student at Kennedy High School who could not speak clearly and did not know how to swim. We understand what it takes to work with special needs kids and adults in a pool setting as we have worked with a special needs organization (Golden Heart Ranch) located in Malibu, CA.

His name was Rosario Israel Gomez, a 14-year-old special education student. He lost his life as a result of major systemic failures across the board on the part of CPS. The tragedy once again is that this fatality could have been prevented. It was discovered that he had failed a swim test and was noted as not being able to swim. He was never outfitted with a life vest (PFD) for his time in the pool and he was not supervised. Only one other that day was issued a life vest and CPS did not require teachers to make sure non-swimmers had life vests. Investigators were told that Israel knew how to stay in the shallow end of the pool.

On January 25th, 2017, a student was reported at the bottom of the Kennedy pool by three students who notified the lifeguard (Calvin Carter) who was on duty that day. Lifeguard Carter ignored the students telling them that it was probably just a kid practicing holding his breath underwater. It was reported that he completely “blew off” the students according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun Times. We feel that lifeguard Carter was completely negligent and he should have along with others been criminally charged with the death of Israel Gomez. He should never be allowed to work as a lifeguard again and his certs should be revoked immediately!

At this same time, another student alerted one of two gym teachers overseeing the swim session but just like lifeguard Carter he too ignored the student as he was on his laptop computer. The investigation revealed that the browsing history on that computer was deleted.

After five minutes had passed, another adult on duty (non-lifeguard) at the pool spotted Israel at the bottom of the pool but at this point it was too late for the boy. It was not until the school aide noticed Israel at the bottom of the pool that lifeguard Carter decided to go in after the boy and pull his lifeless body onto the deck. Once on the deck, CPR was initiated for 20 minutes first by three CPS employees, then by paramedics on scene. Israel was pronounced dead an hour later at MacNeal hospital in Berwyn.

It is reported that lifeguard Carter is saying that he is being wrongly blamed for the death of Israel. First of all he had a duty to act but failed to respond. He is just one link in the chain of events the lad to the fatality.

The most alarming and disturbing information regarding this fatal drowning is that there was only one lifeguard assigned to monitor 70 kids at the pool that day and it is unknown how many were actually swimming at the time of death. As we looked at this incident, we discovered something quite horrific which is that CPS allowed 1 lifeguard per 100 kids and was later revised to 1 lifeguard per 50 kids. The American Red Cross and other training organizations suggest 1 lifeguard per 25 optimal surveillance. That means there should be at least 4 lifeguards per 100 kids. Our policy is 1 lifeguard per 25 swimmers, no exceptions!

So far within the last 6 months we have also weighed in two other drownings at schools. This trend is alarming and our Lifeguard Chief is on the prowl now trying to sound the alarm that schools need to look at their aquatics programs and to ensure that properly trained lifeguards and staffing is adequate to prevent further drownings.

You can find the Chicago Sun Times article here: https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/they-failed-my-son-chicago-schools-to-pay-4m-in-special-ed-teens-drowning/

Elise Cerami drowning: http://www.old.goldenstatelifeguards.com/swim-coach-tracey-boyd-found-guilty-of-elise-cerami-drowning/

Ben Curry drowning: http://www.old.goldenstatelifeguards.com/san-ramon-valley-high-school-drowning/

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If you are interested in having Lifeguard Chief come speak at your event or seminar, please email inquiry to ecastillo@old.goldenstatelifeguards.com

Lifeguard Chief Castillo – Independent Auditing & Consulting

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