Like most of us I suspect, I was sad to read the news on Friday informing that a 5 year old girl had drowned in a swimming pool whilst on holiday. The resort that this happened in is in Egypt, and features in the First Choice All Inclusive brochure. It is a very popular family resort with several swimming pools and a water park. Unsupervised young children and water do not mix well, and parents on holiday literally need eyes in the backs of their heads.
Equally, excited children on holiday are fast and fearless, and it takes only a seconds distraction for them to slip off un-noticed, enticed by the pools and slides, oblivious to the dangers. When one reads of tragedies such as this one, one feels for the whole family, knowing that they will likely suffer that moment of distraction for a lifetime.
So today, I read the latest news on this story, and was surprised at the questioning direction that it had taken. The Gran of the child who sadly died is openly questioning the role of the lifeguards. She is asking why the lifeguards did not see the little girl at the bottom of the pool. She says “If she was seen, would she still be with us?” She also alleges that a member of the public saw and rescued the little girl and that lifeguards did not help with the resuscitation attempts.
What did and didn’t happen will no doubt be the subject of an intense and thorough enquiry. I would want to know why no assistance with resuscitation or other medical assistance was given if this is the case. One of our main reasons for using package holidays of this type is knowing that there will be an english speaking holiday rep and trained staff present for emergencies should they arise. However, I strongly, strongly feel that whilst lifeguards are without doubt essential, they are not a replacement for parental supervision. Lifeguards cannot be held responsible for the death of a child that is in a deep pool, with limited swimming ability that is not under the immediate supervision of an adult. Children who are in water with suitable adult supervision will rarely drown.
I absolutely don’t doubt that this was an accident and really don’t mean to sound harsh towards the family who are left heartbroken. It was an awful thing to happen. I also do not know any details other than what has been reported by the news that may or may not be fully accurate. But, I do think that being on holiday can give a false sense of security. We have been on several First Choice family type holidays. The resorts have all had several pools, lots of children’s entertainment and family activities. Most if not all have had lifeguards present. Several have had pool complexes where there may be a few lifeguards at strategic points, but not every pool has a dedicated lifeguard. All have warning signs and various restrictions – which sometimes seem excessive. But they are there to be heeded. Holidays make you feel happy and relaxed. But, usually they are in an unknown environment with many dangers that we don’t have at home in our familiar surroundings – swimming pools, hot sun, unlimited food and drink. How many of us check the fire evacuation routes when staying in a big hotel? How many don’t use the safe? How many end up with sunburn? When on our holidays I think that a false sense of security and safety can ensue.
It is a hard, hard job to watch children continuously. Knowing that other parents are watching and that there are lifeguards present is a reassurance. But, whilst most family type holiday resorts have numerous safety precautions in place, none are designed to replace the immediate parental supervision and responsibility for a child in a swimming pool. That job does and should always rest with the adult responsible for them. Children will never stop slipping off, eager to explore, excited to be on holiday, ignorant to the dangers. Parents will sometimes become distracted for a few seconds. Mistakes will be made and it is fortunately rare that that moments of distraction will end in tragedy.
I feel horribly sad for the family who’s holiday ended in such heartbreaking tragedy, and I hope that the investigations answer their questions and help to bring them some peace at what must be a horrendous time. I also hope that their child did not die as a result of a safety procedure failing or delayed medical response. But lets remember that whilst holidays are there to give us new experiences and precious family time – accidents can still happen and we need to stay alert to the dangers.