Officials: Kids in Camp Humphreys water mishap were unsupervised
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — When a brother and a sister were sinking toward the bottom of a pool last Sunday, they were unsupervised and their mother was on the opposite side of the Splish and Splash water park, according to military officials.
The children, ages 8 and 10, were rescued by lifeguards and Air Force families, including a bystander who happened to be a registered nurse.
This week, officials at the park and Camp Humphreys safety office are reviewing rescue and safety guidelines to see whether any rules should change to prevent future incidents, according to Humphreys safety manager Randy Turnage.
“We want to make sure people know that parents are 100 percent responsible” for their children at the park, Turnage said Thursday.
Already, Turnage said, officials plan to put up more signs in English and Hangul, the Korean alphabet, around pool areas to remind parents and children of safety guidelines.
The children who were rescued and their mother are South Korean, Humphreys spokesman Robert McElroy said. The three were at the water park on Sunday as guests of a military contractor.
Officials also are considering revoking water park privileges for customers if they fail to follow the park’s rules, Turnage said.
Camp Humphreys base commander Col. John Dumoulin allows military common access card holders to invite non-cardholders into the water park, Turnage and McElroy said. That policy also is part of the overall review, Turnage said.
Most of the investigation is focusing on safety for individual customers and the response time of military rescue personnel, which officials said they were happy with.
Lifeguard Jason Hechtman first saw the children sinking toward the pool bottom around 3 p.m. and dived in after them. Head lifeguard Tom Casey, as well as a couple of nearby airmen, followed.
Casey revived the boy and bystander Claire Darnell, a registered nurse, revived the girl.
By the time the girl was breathing again, a base ambulance was pulling into the pool area, Casey said.
It was then that the mother finally saw that her children were the ones in trouble, Turnage said.
Neither child had water in the lungs, and health officials estimated they were in the water less than a minute, said Casey, who followed the family to the on-base medical clinic.
The $7 million water park, which opened in late May, is the first of its kind on a U.S. military base in South Korea. It is run by Morale, Welfare and Recreation and employs 22 lifeguards, Casey said. About half of the lifeguard staff are South Korean or speak the language.
Each day, 16 lifeguards are on duty, Turnage said. Military regulations call for one lifeguard for every 75 people, but the water park’s lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio is smaller.
The park’s capacity is 450, but only twice this summer has the pool turned away customers because of overcrowding. On a busy weekend, about 500 people enter the park throughout the day, Turnage said. Most weekends, the attendance has been about 350 people throughout the day.
The safety recommendations and report are expected in about two weeks, Turnage said.