PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s been nearly six months since Fran, a champion swimmer from Conshohocken, died during an open-water meet in Dubai.
Now, one group is pushing new safety rules for such competitions.
A commission appointed by USA Swimming is recommending strict guidelines for open water meets — such as the highest and lowest allowable water temperature and air temperature, and an increase in the number of safety workers and the amount of equipment.
Richard Pound, head of the panel, says such rules weren’t in effect when Crippen is thought to have lost consciousness and drowned because of heat exhaustion.
“It ought not be possible for a swimmer to go underwater and not be seen by somebody,” he says.
But Richard Shoulberg (right), Crippen’s coach at Germantown Academy, takes the sport’s international governing body to task. He says FINA has been silent in its probe into the 26-year-old’s death, and how to make conditions for others safer.
“If it was your son or your daughter who drowned, what would you be doing to get the answers?” he wonders aloud.
USA Swimming officials echo Schoulberg’s criticisms of FINA. Bruce Stratton, the president of USA Swimming, says his group has been “extremely disappointed” that FINA would not turn over details of Crippen’s death nor provide any hint of what changes it would make to ensure swimmers’ safety in grueling open-water events in the future.
Among the recommendations in the committee’s report, which USA Swimming says its board will vote on at a meeting on May 7th:
— for races 5 km or longer, the water temperature can not exceed 87.8 degrees or be lower than 60.8 degrees. The combined water and air temperature must not be above 145.4 degrees;
— a physician with experience at endurance sporting events must attend every race, with at least one emergency medical technician for every 150 competitors;
— a mandatory check-in system before and after each race, with a goal to create an automatic tracking device for swimmers;
— one safety craft for every 20 swimmers in an unescorted race, depending on course length, with floating feeding stations every 2 km for unescorted 5 km and longer races.
Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio 1060