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Near tragedy prompts request on Edgerton pool safety

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
July 8, 2010
— A near-drowning incident last month at Edgerton Aquatic Center has led a local couple to ask the city for improved safety measures at the center’s zero-depth swimming pool.

Wednesday, Edgerton residents Mike and Kim Pritchard asked the city’s parks and recreation committee to consider painting more safety markers and installing a buoy rope at the city’s zero-depth pool, to avert a tragedy such as the one they nearly faced a few weeks ago.


On June 19, the Prichards’ 4-year-old son, Hayden, was hospitalized at UW-Madison Hospital after he almost drowned in the deep end of Edgerton’s zero-depth pool.


The Pritchards say Hayden, a novice swimmer, walked into deep water after he became confused by the single blue line painted on the pool’s bottom, a safety marker between the pool’s deep and shallow ends.


The Pritchards were in the pool with their four children, when they stopped watching Hayden for a few moments, only to find him unconscious, blue, and floating about 18 inches underwater.


“He was supposed to be with my husband and my other son at the pool’s little ducky slide,” Kim Pritchard told the Gazette this week, saying she and Mike had lost track of Hayden during a miscommunication.


An off-duty emergency medical technician was at the pool during the June 19 emergency and quickly started cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Hayden. The boy has fully recovered.


Zero-depth pools are extremely shallow at entry, gradually dropping off to a maximum depth. Edgerton’s zero-depth pool has a maximum depth of four-and-a-half feet. Under state codes, pools with a deep end must have a safety marker.


But since Hayden’s near-drowning, the Pritchards have visited other zero-depth pools in Fort Atkinson, Madison and Sun Prairie, researching safety methods.


Those pools, the Pritchards say, have two or three sets of safety stripes they said more clearly show locations of shallow, intermediate, and deepwater areas. Plus, they said, some of the pools have buoy ropes that children can grab hold of if they panic or become tired in deep water.


“The (Edgerton) pool meets the codes,” Kim Pritchard told the Gazette. “But maybe they need to look into more methods,” she said.


The parks and recreation committee on Wednesday directed Aquatic Director Ann Gohlke to review how painted stripes and floating ropes are used at other local zero-depth pools, and has asked her to recommend safety changes at Edgerton’s pool at a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 11.


At that time, the committee could make recommendations to the full city council.


Meanwhile, the city has plans to drain and repaint the zero-depth pool in October. City officials said the project already has been planned, and any additional designs painted in the pool would have to be approved separately.


Mike Pritchard said he hopes the city plans safety improvements at the pool soon.


“We’ve still got a lot of summer left. I know it’s an expense, but isn’t it worth it?” he said.


Kim Pritchard wondered if the city could move forward with other improvements even if repainting won’t come until fall.


“They could put in a floating safety line without dumping the pool,” she said.


Parks and recreation committee director Brent Harry told the Gazette it’s possible the committee could make safety upgrades at the pool without city council approval, but he wouldn’t say whether the improvements could include a buoy rope.


Meanwhile, the Pritchards said they feel lucky Hayden’s alive. They said Hayden already is clamoring to go swimming again, but they won’t take him back to the Edgerton pool until he has learned to swim.


Kim Pritchard said the near-drowning hits home every time she hears Hayden talk about it.


“Hayden’s telling people, ‘I drowned. I died, and I came back.’ You really don’t want to hear your child telling his 5-year-old friends something like that,” she said.



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