Fun Splash Water Park owner Vijay Ramai said yesterday that he had reached out to the family of five-year-old D’amari Jeffery, who drowned at his facility on Sunday.
Ramai said he gave his commitment to stay in touch with the family during their period of grief and to work with them to help alleviate their burden.
D’amari died while undergoing treatment at the San Fernando General Hospital after someone found him floating in a pool at the Debe facility, having gone there with his mother, Anika George, and other relatives to celebrate his cousin’s second birthday.
Ramai said the drowning was the first death in the company’s 13-year existence, adding they would now have to enforce new rules on the use of pools at the facility.
“Our experience (in the industry) for the last 25 years, parents have left their kids and become dependent on pool attendants. They carry a certain role, but the degree of risk will change over time.
“Water parks are high-risk, as a lot of people are not able to see the dangers. Because this is our first death at the water park, we will implement new strategies to reduce risk,” Ramai said.
He said an immediate response will be the enforcement of a new height limit on pools at the facility.
Ramai said he would not cast blame on anyone, as he was treating the incident as an accident. He said it was already a traumatic incident and Fun Splash regretted it happened.
According to reports, an adult saw D’amari motionless in the adult pool around 4 pm. Emergency Medical Technicians who arrived on the scene attempted to resuscitate him and took him to the hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead.
And while there is now a public debate over who was responsible for Jeffery’s death, lifeguard supervisor Lennox Dwarika said all water parks and public pools should have lifeguards for their operations.
Reports said there were signs at the facility saying there must be full-time supervision of children, as there were no lifeguards on duty and that people under five feet must be able to swim. There were pool attendants on duty, but relatives questioned why there were no lifeguards.
Dwarika told Guardian Media yesterday that while he was unsure what laws governed these businesses, it was advisable to have trained personnel available at all times. He explained that lifeguards understood that incidents in water could happen in the blink of an eye, especially where there was significant depth. He said lifeguards also considered drowning a preventable occurrence.
“You must have someone who is constantly supervising and looking after patrons at these parks and water parks. By extension, what one must adhere to is that parents should supervise their children, and it should be within the limitation of where children can bathe and play,” Dwarika said.
While many adults were in and around the pool, he said, they may not always be family members who would pay close attention. Additionally, Dwarika said, some people may not have the vigilance to look out for someone else’s child, know the signs of distress, or might be preoccupied. He said some people only realised how quickly water became dangerous after experiencing an incident.
Therefore, Dwarika said parents should do nothing else but monitor children, whether at water parks or public or home pools. He also said it was safer to look overhead rather than being in the water with them.
“If a parent is supervising their children bathing, they should not be in the water. And secondly, if they even have to leave to get a bottle of water from a cooler, the children should come out of the water.”
Dwarika said there was a practice that even if a lifeguard had to go on a bathroom break, everyone had to come out of the water, or someone take over the watch because they did not want to lose supervision. He said some people would see it as a bit rigid, but it is important to save lives.
Guardian Media attempted to contact OSHA personnel for comment on regulations regarding the operation of water parks yesterday but was unsuccessful. A search of the OSH Act also did not reveal specific regulations for water park and pool operations.
Also contacted, the TTPS’ Child Protection Unit and San Fernando police said they were investigating the drowning. While investigators believe the death was accidental, they said they were continuing inquiries to unearth the circumstances surrounding it and were awaiting an autopsy report.