At approximately 10:45 am on May 14th, a nine-year-old boy was found floating face down in the wave pool at Ogle’s Water Park in Pigeon Forge. The young boy was on a school outing with his classmates from Russelville Elementary School in Hamlin County. This was the school’s annual year-end trip.
The young boy was transported to the Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center by Sevier County Ambulance Authority, and then airlifted by Lifestar to Children’s Hospital in Knoxville where he was listed in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit.
The boy was swimming in three feet of water when a fellow student noticed he was laying face down in the pool and appeared to be in trouble.
The boy has since improved and is expected to recover. Lifeguard’s at Ogle’s, revived the boy by performing CPR on him until he started breathing on his own.
The name and address of the victim is being withheld at the request of the parents.
So how safe are our water parks and how many lifeguards are required per person?
According to Melissa Johnson from the YMCA, the state requirements are one lifeguard to twenty-five people then after that it is determined by the square footage of the pool area. According to Chris Davis with The American Red Cross, a lifeguard can have no more than 180 degrees of responsibility (meaning they shouldn’t have to look behind them to see swimmers), and make sure every area of the pool is covered. According to Roseann Stelzman, Director of Aquatics for Pigeon Forge. The requirements are a little different than that of YMCA.
Their requirements read:
1 lifeguard 25 or less people
2 lifeguard 26-50 people
51 or more people it is based on the square footage:
1 lifeguard 1,800 to 3,000 sq. ft.
2 lifeguards 3001 to 6000 sq. ft.
3 lifeguards 6001-9000 sq. ft.
4 lifeguards 9,000-12001 sq. ft.
One (1) additional lifeguard per each additional 3,000 sq. ft.
*With 25 or less pool bathers at all pools having a diving board or tower that is one meter or more in height above the operating water level.
Barry Luna, Environmental Specialist for the state who is based out of Sevier County is one of six specialists that check on area pools stated, “We inspect the pools once a month and we come unannounced. If we go to a pool and they do not have the required number of lifeguards it is noted and is marked against them. They will usually bring out another lifeguard at that time but we will not close down the pool based on not having the required number of lifeguards. Ogle’s Water Park is not one of the parks that I check but I do believe they had the required amount of lifeguards on duty at the time of the accident last week. I believe they fall into the 9,000 to 12,000 sq category.” Ogle’s Water Park was called to ask their lifeguard/swimmer ratio but they were unavailable for comment.
Ogle’s Sevier County Days, which offers free admission to Sevier County residents is June 3rd through the 9th. Sevier County Days for Dollywood are June 1st through the 7th. There are no Sevier County Days for Dollywood Splash County.
How to keep your child safe while swimming:
Maintain constant supervision, no matter how well your child swims. Heat and fatigue can make a big difference in swimming ability even for good swimmer.
If you or your child are getting too tired, to much sun, too cold, or too far from safety – get out.
Learn CPR – call your American Red Cross to find out dates and time for classes. 584-2999.
Learn to swim – the American Red Cross have classes starting June 3rd that run throughout the summer. You can call 584-2999 to sign up.
Know your limits, don’t push it.
Keep things out of pools, waterways that block your view such as floating devices.
Always swim with a buddy, never swim alone.