The wrong question

This seems to have been a summer of amusement park accidents. The latest was a drowning death at Paramont’s Great America, down in Santa Clara County:

With six lifeguards on duty, a 4-year-old boy drowned Thursday afternoon in the new “wave pool” attraction at Great America amusement park in Santa Clara.

The victim was spotted by park workers beneath the surface of the water in the Great Barrier Reef pool, an enormous expanse of churning water about half the size of a football field that had opened at the park less than two months ago.

The child was pulled from the middle of the pool at 2:26 p.m. by park security personnel. Lifeguards and paramedics attempted to resuscitate the child before he was transported to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara, where he was pronounced dead.

The Santa Clara coroner’s office identified him Thursday night as Carlos Alexnoro Flores of San Jose.

It’s a terrible tragedy for a little life to be snuffed out that way. I’m not blogging about it merely out of a macabre interest. What caught my eye is that the mother is blaming Great America:

Yolanda Flores sat in the garage of a family member’s home in south San Jose on Friday, swathed in black, hugging her remaining 2-year-old son to her chest, and blamed the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara for the drowning of her 4-year-old boy.

Flores disputed key elements of the park’s account of how the tragedy unfolded Thursday at the Great Barrier Reef wave pool, an expanse of churning water about half the size of a football field, where she had let the 4-year-old boy, Carlos Alejandro Flores, play unattended.

Park officials said six lifeguards were on duty when one spotted Carlos around 2:30 p.m. near the middle of the pool, where the water is about 2 feet deep when waves aren’t rolling through. At its deepest point, the pool is 6 feet deep.

Flores, 27, said there were only four lifeguards at the pool at the time and that her 8-year-old daughter, Jasmine, was the one who spotted the boy underwater after he apparently had been there for several minutes.

“That’s a lie that there were six,” Flores said. “There’s four lifeguards there. How can they not see my son? There’s three walking and one sitting. They weren’t doing their job. He was in 2 feet of water. How could he drown?

The mother’s question is, “How could Great America fail to take care of my son?” My question is, “Where was the mother?” This is not a teenager. This is a 4 year old at a crowded water park, with hundreds of people milling around. Well, Mom wasn’t there, and she wasn’t in any great hurry to investigate where her son was, either:

Flores said she had not been in the pool with her son at the time and does not know how he drowned. The 4-year-old had been in the water earlier, got out to eat some chips and went back in, she said.

When he didn’t return within 10 minutes, she said, she became concerned and told her daughter to find him. After Jasmine told her mother she couldn’t see the boy, both started toward the pool, where Jasmine ultimately found him underwater, Flores said. The girl’s screams attracted the lifeguards’ attention, she said.

To do it credit, the Chronicle, from which I’m quoting, above, found someone to say exactly what I was thinking about this bereaved mother:

Bill Avery, an aquatic safety consultant in Orlando, Fla., who formerly worked for several amusement parks, said adult supervision is crucial during water play.

“It gets down to some basic personal responsibility,” Avery said. “People have to remain cognizant when kids are involved, I don’t care what activity they’re involved in. . . . As a father and grandfather, a 4-year-old with me in the water is not going to be more than a handgrip away from me at any time.”

That’s right.  In a situation such as the chaos that inevitably attends a warm summer’s day at Great America, or any other water park, it’s not enough to assume that life guards will see you 4 year old, and it’s silly to put your faith in life jackets, or any other protection device.  The only way to ensure a 4 year old’s safety in a crowded water situation is to be right there.

Mom’s attacks against Great America may be motivated by a burden of guilt that is understandable only by parents who have lost a child.  Nevertheless, her conduct was negligent, and all the guilt-shifting in the world won’t change that.  I’m also willing to bet that she’ll find a lawyer who will take on the case, that she’ll sue Great America, and that she’ll get several hundred thousand dollars in Great America insurance money, despite the fact that the negligence was hers and not theirs.

15 Responses

  1. You bet – and the world won’t be short of lawyers who’ll take the case, will it?

  2. What caught my eye is that the mother is blaming Great America:

    BS. A fracking wave pool the size of 1/2 football field and someone let a four year old in? Give me a break.

    One undertow is all it would have taken, it wouldn’t even have needed the youngling to have stepped all that far into it. So where’s the parental/guardian supervision?

    With six lifeguards on duty

    Six for something half a football field? You got to be kidding me. Six is barely enough although I’not a lifeguard so I can’t make a good analysis of it, so why does the article make it sound like the six was more than enough? Oh, because the mother said they weren’t doing the job.

    “That’s a lie that there were six,” Flores said. “There’s four lifeguards there. How can they not see my son? There’s three walking and one sitting. They weren’t doing their job. He was in 2 feet of water. How could he drown?

    What part of “wave pool” do you not fracking understand?

    Well, Mom wasn’t there, and she wasn’t in any great hurry to investigate where her son was, either:

    It was the eight year old girl that was even looking for the four year old. Mother just didn’t seem to even notice that he was missing. And when he was, supposedly she couldn’t be bothered to go actually look for him herself. Sending an eight year old out on her own. She could have fell into the same problem as the four year old, but hey. Whatever, as they say.

    I actually fell into a pool where only two adults were at sitting in one of the nearby tables. There was nobody else except us 3 there. I slipped on the steps when getting out, went down, lost my orientation, breathed in a little bit of water. Time stretched out and it seemed a long time before I got my orientation back and got out of the pool. The two adults were still chatting it up at the table as if nothing had happened. It is pretty easy for people not to notice you splashing around in a pool. Regardless of how many are around.

    If you’re not aware of your surroundings and try to just shovel off responsibility upon others, then don’t blame other people when you fail in your duty.

    Kids aren’t dumb. If you act scared and tell them not to do certain things and warn them of the dangers, they will listen because kids know how you feel. If you feel afraid, they will feel afraid. In that sense, nature ensures survivability amongst family chains. Good parents provide good chances of survival. Bad parents… well, in our day and age, nature still has a grip on our lives.

  3. It was the fifth fatal accident at the park, which opened in 1976.

    Cue omninous music peeps.

    In 1999, a 12-year-old boy fell to his death from the Drop Zone ride. In 1998, a 25-year-old man was killed when he climbed over a security fence to retrieve a hat and was kicked by the dangling foot of a passenger on the Top Gun roller coaster. In 1989, a 9-year-old boy died after falling under a fiberglass log on a water ride. In 1980, a 13-year-old boy died when two trains collided on the Willard’s Whizzer roller coaster.

    If your enemy bleeds, it leads. Cause panic, create fear. Try and make people hostile and feeling vulnerable. It’s not Bush and his neo cons that does it, it is the fracking media.

  4. Our pool has a sign which reads: “Watch your children. There is no substitute for supervision.” Being as that I’ve seen lifeguards chatting on the cellphone and texting while they should be watching the pool, you can bet my four year-old is never more than an arm’s length away from me.

  5. I’m going to forget about the media. There’s two co-authors for the piece, making the article go both ways.

  6. The Wrong Question

    This is a terrible tragedy but the fact remains that a four year old should never be left alone in a wave pool; even in the shallow part. Supervision by lifeguards doesn’t negate parental responsibility.

  7. A manager of a local aquatics park told me that people die in pools, period. You can do everything you wish to eliminate the deaths, but in reality all you can do is reduce their frequency to the point of being extremely rare. Mama didn’t know this fact, and she let her four year old disappear into the wave pool for TEN MINUTES!!! If she’s going to sue the owners of the wave pool, then I want her sued for dangerous negligence.

    Certainly her tragedy will leave her distraught and seeking others to blame. I hope she is not one of those people who are constantly expecting others to take responsibility for her and her loved ones; while she never takes any responsibility for them herself.

    I’ve been in a few wave pools, and they’re all large. If she wins her lawsuit, the end result will be the end of large wave pools.

  8. Well, let’s see. Bookworm finds reason to chastise a mother who’s just lost her 4-year-old child because the mother failed to exert the required high-level of Worm-assessed parental involvement. ‘No tears for that slacker mother,’ the Worm implicitly says.

    Yet, from the Worm, readers are endlessly subjected to complaints about the tiniest perceived-shortcomings in the Worm-children’s school. And never, in all of the Worm’s complaining and carping and scorning about the school’s supposed failings does the Worm share with us how she has engaged the school directly – by speaking with the teachers and the principal — to correct whatever the problem is. Never. And why is that? Because the Worm is a disengaged parent, at least with respect to her children’s schools. Not that that stops her from scorning another for “same behavior, different context.”

  9. Greg: Any mother who loses sight of her 4 year old for at least ten minutes in a crowded water park is entirely responsible for that child’s death. End of story. Either you have never had children or you too were an utterly reprehensible parent who, perhaps, got luckier than this one did. Another end of story.

  10. The Lord knows your heart, Bookworm.

  11. Hey Book, you are checking the ips of greg and companions to make sure he is one and the same right? The Pastor Ray, whatever thing?

  12. I’ve heard somewhere that Greg has a useful perspective, when he chooses to express it, rather than just dump snark on the BW. Has anyone got an example? I can’t remember a single post where he did anything but spew this same kind of hateful bile all over the place…..

    Unless someone can come up with even ONE post where he made an attempt to deal rationally with the actual issue, I’d vote to send him off the island. I’m just full to here with his act.

  13. It is a tragedy to lose a child, but in my work I have met many Yolandas and their offspring. Did she love her kid? I am sure she did. But let’s look at the level of supervision there or elsewhere she provided them. How old was she? She might be only 19 or 20, immature and distracted, or inclined to send her kid off and let the lifeguards or others watch out for them.
    In a crowded waterpark, with its obvious dangers, including unsavory humans, if I didn’t see my kid for even one minute (and a 4 year old is still a pre-schooler, remember that) I would be searching immediately.
    Just because she experienced a terrible tragedy does not mean she and the other adults with her, were not supervising at an obviously inadequate level. 10 minutes is a loooong time for a 4 year old to be gone. Time it Greg.

  14. To clarify my comment, what I meant by having met “many Yolandas” is moms who send their kids off to play, exercising little to no supervision, or relying on other children or parents to monitor without arranging this beforehand. It is hoping for the best supervision. I have seen this in busy stores, in apartment buildings, in our waiting room. Regardless of ethnicity. I remember one mom, a neighbor from many years ago, who let her toddler wander in the building courtyard unsupervised, and every afteroon I would hear her calling for her daughter, who usually was being supervised by other moms in the park-like courtyard. Until one day.
    The girl was under 3. Mom begins her usual, “Ronnie, where are you?” Silence. I listened as her casual cries become more frantic and desperate. We came out to help. Finally, the toddler was found in the apartment of the friend where she had been more than 1/2 an hour. Had she been kidnapped, fallen down a flight of stairs, or eaten oleander, mom would have been oblivious.
    I consider that to be parental neglect.

  15. I have taken my own children to a waterpark every summer since my youngest was four. At that age if you let your children out of your sight at a crowded waterpark, especially while in the water, you ARE negligent.

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