Man takes issue with reason for pool rule change

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014

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Teri Tamati says he wants to set the record straight about the incident that prompted the New Plymouth District Council to impose new caregiver rules at the aquatic centre.

The council said a near-drowning last October involving a 4-year-old boy prompted the tougher adult-child ratios.

One adult was supervising seven children at the time of the near-drowning, the council said

But Mr Tamati, of Waitara, told the Taranaki Daily News yesterday he was the adult involved and that he "took issue with this incident" being the catalyst.

Mr Tamati, also a trained pool guard, said the boy who nearly drowned was actually 5 years old, and there were six children, not seven, under his care.

"Two of these youngsters were a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old, and were under the care of my 16-year-old grandson," he said.

Mr Tamati looked after the remaining three, who were two 5-year-olds and one 6-year-old.

"This mix of children and caregivers actually exceeds the facility's new ratios."

On that day, Mr Tamati was watching the three children splash around in the indoor paddling pool. He said he was continuously scanning the pools, which were jam-packed that afternoon, to make sure the three children were safe.

Mr Tamati said he saw a child lying face down in the water and took off across the pool and picked him up by his legs.

At that point, he did not realise it was his grandson until the boy was pulled out of the water. " The moment I pulled him out, he gave a cough and I knew he was breathing again," Mr Tamati said.

But he was concerned he was the first to notice the boy was in trouble and not the lifeguard, who was only "one metre away" from the boy.

Mr Tamati felt the new rules were too stringent and it would be hard for single parents with children of varying ages.

Mr Tamati said he did not want to create a situation that restricted people from taking their children out for a swim.

"You can have one person looking after a child but they turn around and do something, and the next minute, it's ‘where's Johnny?'," he said.

"And by the time they get through all the people, Johnny is under the water."

NPDC recreation and events manager Ron Murray said the adult supervision ratios were introduced on a trial basis after the near-drowning.

"However, we also took into account staff reports of other incidents of caregivers not supervising young children closely enough," he said.

Lifeguard ratios was one to 50 swimmers and there were five lifeguards on duty that day, looking after 147 users.

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Mr Murray said CCTV footage confirmed Mr Tamati was the first to notice the child in danger. "He walked about 10 metres to pull the boy from the water, assisted by a lifeguard," he said.

Mr Murray said lifeguards were an important safety feature but they were not intended to replace the close supervision of parents or caregivers.

- Taranaki Daily News

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