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Youth critical after pool mishap

The Poulsbo boy was rescued from the bottom by a parent.

A birthday party at the Bainbridge Aquatics Center took a tragic turn on Sunday, when a 10-year-old Poulsbo boy was found unconscious at the bottom of the pool.

The child, whose name was not released, was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where he is on a respirator and remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit, police said.

The 1:50 p.m. incident apparently came to the attention of lifeguards when a woman emerged from the pool carrying the unconscious child.

“I saw a lifeguard stand up and blow her whistle, and I followed her train of vision and saw a person carrying a limp child in her arms,” said a Bainbridge Island man, who was in the pool with his two boys and a neighbor girl, and who asked not to be identified.

The lifeguards began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and within minutes several teams of paramedics had arrived to work on the child, the man said. Meanwhile, the aquatic center staff cleared the pool.

The child did not appear to be responding, the witness said.

“It didn’t look like anything was happening, and the lifeguards were in tears,” the man said. “I have tremendous respect and gratitude for the quickness and the level of response. And I hope that boy is OK.”

Bainbridge Police Detective Scott Anderson said the boy was revived before being airlifted to the hospital.

Based on video footage taken from the pool’s cameras, it appeared that the child fell off a flotation device and slipped under the water, said Anderson.

No one is sure yet how long the youth was at the bottom before he was pulled out.

“It is the nightmare that you never want to see,” said John DeMeyer, aquatics supervisor for the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District. “I have been here 18 years, and we have never had anything like this happen.”

The incident has shaken the entire pool staff, DeMeyer said.

“Everybody is really sad and upset,” he said. “We had a staff meeting last night, and everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

Since the boy was from Poulsbo, the pool staff did not know him and did not know whether or not he could swim, DeMeyer said.

The incident is likely to result in an examination of the pool’s safety rules and procedures.

The pool rules state that patrons over the age of 7 who cannot swim are not allowed in water more than chest deep, DeMeyer said. The boy was found in an area of the pool which has a gradual slope from three to five feet.

The rules for pool parties state that there is to be one adult chaperone in the water for every five children under 7 who can’t swim.

As it stands, there are no fewer than seven certified lifeguards on staff at the pool at all times. Sunday’s pool attendance was fairly light for a weekend, but DeMeyer said the exact number of patrons that day is still being determined.

All of the pool’s lifeguards have American Red Cross water park training and have completed CPR training for the professional rescuer.

“If there need to be changes, we will make them,” DeMeyer said. “We are analyzing the situation over and over again.”

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