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Fall River Pool-Goers Criticize Lack Of Supervision

This article is more than 11 years old.

A friend of the woman found dead in a pool here Tuesday says a lifeguard was told by a 9-year-old boy on Sunday that the woman never came up after the two splashed into the pool from a slide. The friend says the lifeguard promised to do a pool check, but never did.

An investigation is under way to determine whether 36-year-old Marie Joseph lay at the bottom of the pool for two days.

Mothers who go to the pool with their children on Thursday criticized the pool's lack of supervision.

Maria Pittsley says she has been at the Veterans Memorial Pool with her kids every day, including Tuesday. That night, after the pool closed, Joseph's body was found by boys who had jumped the fence to sneak in a swim. The boys called 911 and EMTs rushed to the pool from the fire station across the street. One thing that puzzles Pittsley is that hours before the boys found Joseph in the deep end, that part of the pool had been closed to swimmers.

"What was strange about it is the day that her body floated up, they had the slide area, that area closed off, and to me, personally, I think they know more than what they're statin' they know," Pittsley said. "Because why every other day the slide was open besides that one day?"

Another mom playing with her children on the fields next to the now-closed pool, Griffin Perez,  says she asked why the area of the pool next to the slide was off-limits.

"I was told it was closed down due to shortage of staff," Perez said.

Perez says at any given time, four to six lifeguards are on duty. It sounds like a lot, given that this is just a normal-sized public pool, but she thinks there should be more, given how many children are there on a given day.

"The other thing I don't get is the lifeguards pull people out of the pool every hour or two hours to do a 15-minute check," Perez said. "They make everyone sit outside the pool for 15 minutes. How did nobody see anything? They blow their whistles, make sure that everybody gets out of the pool, but they don't physically look in the pool. They just make sure there's no heads bobbin' around in the water, and then they just walk away."

Perez says there is always a park officer and a Fall River police officer present at the pool. On top of that she says several staff members are in the pool office at any given moment.

Pittsley says from the day the pool opened this year, the teenage lifeguards were not doing their job properly.

"They wasn't [sic] watching," Pittsley said. "The young kids were all swimming in areas that they shouldn't be in. They were jumping into the pool, which is supposed to not be allowed, while the lifeguards were just worrying about each other. "

Pittsley says the Department of Conservation and Recreation should hire more mature lifeguards.

Two Fall River health inspectors and the entire pool staff have been placed on administrative leave.

Twenty-four state pools have been closed until they can certify all the equipment is working properly, all procedures are being followed and whether all lifeguards and pool managers are certified. DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert says most pools should reopen Friday.

This program aired on June 30, 2011.

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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