Should high schools maintain swimming pools? A local newspaper editorial in Lowell, Massachusetts, asked that question following two drowning deaths in the past nine months at pools operated by local high schools. The editorial noted that in Massachusetts, high school pools are not subject to the same state regulation as pools in private homes or “semi-public” areas.
Few Answers for Freshman’s Family
On April 9, 2013, Greater Lowell Technical High freshman Danny Svay died after drowning in the school’s pool. Local police said Svay was found at the bottom of the pool unresponsive. Although police declared the drowning accidental, the Middlesex County District Attorney reportedly continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding Svay’s death. Many details remain unclear, including how Svay was found in the water, how long he was there, and exactly who was in charge of pool safety for the school.
The Boston Globe reported on April 12 that Svay’s family was “desperate” for answers about his death and how it might have been prevented. TheGlobe suggested that Svay was in the pool for gym class and said that he was “not a strong swimmer” and “frightened” of the water. Following Svay’s death, Greater Lowell Technical High closed the pool for the remainder of the school year to everyone, including outside groups using the facility.
Immigrant Dies in Unsecured Pool
Sadly, this is not the only accidental teen drowning to hit the Lowell community in recent months. Last August, 17-year-old Eddie Gayyean drowned in the pool at Lowell High School less than five miles from where Danny Svay died. Gayvean, a recent immigrant to the United States from Liberia, apparently gained access to the Lowell High School pool after hours. His body was later discovered by a swimming team that had arrived for practice. The Lowell Sun noted that “it was common knowledge the swimming area was accessible” and school officials had not taken steps to secure the pool even after repeated trespassing incidents.
Massachusetts does not directly regulate swimming pools operated by schools. While pool construction is subject to oversight from the state’s public health department, once operational, it’s up to the school district to comply with local health and safety codes. The Lowell Sun reported that a review of the Lowell High School pool following Eddie Gayvean’s death revealed 32 “routine” health-code violations. Indeed, neither the pools at Lowell High School or Greater Lowell Technical had full-time lifeguards, which are considered too costly for school budgets.
The Lowell Sun posed the question, “If we cannot operate a pool with absolute safety, is it worth having one?” It’s a natural reaction to the two recent tragedies. While it’s unlikely the nation’s high schools will shutter their swimming pools, these deaths emphasize the importance of safety and accountability for all pool operators. The families of Danny Svay and Eddie Gayvean deserve answers. And if you or a family member find yourself in a similar situation, you don’t have to just sit on your hands and wait for officials to react. Contact nationally renowned swimming accident attorney Jesse Guerra at the J. Guerra law firm today if you need help in Texas or anywhere in the United States.