"It opened our eyes": Changes in store after a near drowning at a Marana public pool

"It opened our eyes": Changes in store after a near drowning at a Marana public pool

By Valerie Cavazos. CREATED Jun 5, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Parents are upset over a recent near-drowning at a Marana public pool. They claim the lifeguards didn't do their jobs and came to 90YS to investigate.

KGUN9 has been looking into this for days and the Town of Marana admits changes are needed.

Four professional lifeguards had been on duty, but a parent, not a lifeguard, jumps in to save an 8-year-old boy lying at the bottom of the Ora Mae Harn public pool.

Kristina Barnes was one of the parents to witness the near drowning.

She told reporter Valerie Cavazos, "I didn't feel that they had four competent lifeguards are duty. Everyone panicked and no one knew what to do." Unacceptable -- said lifeguard instructor Marnie Green of the Pima County Parks and Recreation.

And if their lifeguards fail to do the jobs they're trained for "they're asked to leave because we drill them almost every day." But not in Marana. Tom Ellis is the Director of Marana's Park and Recreation.

Cavazos asked him if lifeguards are asked to leave. "We did not take them off duty because we need the lifeguards on stand," he said.

The lifeguards are back on duty because the town of Marana told 9OYS that they don't have extra lifeguards to replace them.

KGUN9 put them to the test and watched their actions from a distance.

The Pima County lifeguards show the correct way to change a guard from a chair. One lifeguard must scan the pool at all times.

Cavazos asked Ellis, "The lifeguard at all times supposed to be looking at the pool." He replied, "That's correct."

Cavazos then asked, "And if they're not doing that, what happens? He answered, "If they're not doing that then they need to be retrained."

Our camera captured both Marana lifeguards, the only two on deck, taking their eyes off a group of swimmers.

Ellis responded, "Then that's something we need to take a look at." And we also captured the lifeguards looking away from the pool -- minutes at a time.

The same amount of time that it took for an 8 year old to nearly drown.

Ellis said, "So it's opened our eyes. It's opened the eyes of our guards and so we're doubling down and making sure we take care of business," he said.

Ellis said they plan to increase lifeguard training drills from every two weeks -- to every week.