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Sweeping Safety Changes Coming To Philadelphia Pools

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Kids at Vogt Recreation Center enjoy splashing. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)

Kids at Vogt Recreation Center enjoy splashing. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The drowning death of a young boy at a South Philadelphia pool last summer is prompting city officials to impose tougher safety precautions for non-swimmers, when the pools open this summer.

Seven year old Ja’briel O’Connor died last July after being found at the bottom of the pool at the Cobbs Creek Recreation Center.

The boy did not know how to swim.

At a city council hearing this past week, Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis unveiled sweeping changes in the supervision of non-swimmers:

“I think we’ve significantly change the way we identify and allow young people who can’t swim to enjoy the pool.”

The biggest change is that children who are part of a private camp — as O’Connor was — will be screened by lifeguards, as non-camp children are.

This is Deputy Recreation Commissioner Leo Dignam:

“All of those kids will be screened the first time they come in. If they can’t swim, they’ll be identified as not being able to swim, and we’ll rope off a section of the shallow end of the pool, and make sure they stay in that area only. We have made that mandatory at all of our pools.”

And Dignam said there will now be mandatory water safety training for the private camp counselors and for city staffers who are not lifeguards:

“All of our seasonal employees who work in the camps will also have to through that water safety training. So everybody on deck besides the lifeguards — who already have that training — will have that water safety training.”

Dignam said the city pools will also have new signage, reminding parents of non-camp children that they need to be in the pool if their child is shorter than 45 inches, or can’t swim. Recreation Commissioner Susan Slawson told Council members they believe these and other changes are meant to prevent future tragedies:

“Our goal is for that to never happen. And hopefully what we’ve put together will make all the difference in the world.”

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