Alexandra swimming pool: “Accident waiting to happen”

2017-01-03 09:27
The scene of the emptied Alexandra swimming pool currently being re-filled with water as it remained closed to the public.

The scene of the emptied Alexandra swimming pool currently being re-filled with water as it remained closed to the public. (Nondumiso Zakwe)

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The Concerned Swimming Fraternity (CSF) have criticised the Msunduzi Municipality over what it described as “incompetent under-qualified” lifeguards allocated to the Alexandra public swimming pool.

This follows a drowning incident that occurred at the Pietermaritzburg swimming pool on New Year’s Day at around 11 am.

CSF president Jay Jugwanth expressed dissatisfaction at the number of lifeguards allocated to the “overcrowded” swimming pool, saying: “The lifeguards don’t have upgraded qualifications. We raised this with the mayor on December 18. We said there are only four lifeguards who have been retested, the rest of the lifeguards should also be retested. We told him that if his lifeguards don’t do the test and somebody drowns, they’re going to be sitting with a huge problem. Secondly, lifeguards should be allocated to look after a certain number of people. For example, one lifeguard for every 200 bathers, and Alexandra is overcrowded. The pool is overcrowded almost every day, especially during this time of the year. This was an accident waiting to happen.’’

Lifeguards who were on duty raised the alarm when they spotted the body of a male believed to be 17-years-old inside the pool.

Efforts were then made to resuscitate him, but by the time the lifeguard arrived to the poolside, the teenager had already died.

Msunduzi Municipality mayor Themba Njilo has since refuted the claim, saying: “What happened is that the pool became uncontrollable. There were more than 1 000 people and most of them were drunk. We called the police and security guards to the pool because people were jumping over the fence and it just became too chaotic. We had three lifeguards who were, at the time, helping security guards close the gate. One of the lifeguards returned to the pool and that is when he found the body lying inside the pool. He then tried to help him but it was too late. He was already dead. We cannot confirm whether the boy who drowned had been drinking and fell or whether he was pushed. We will wait for a post mortem to identify the cause of his death.’’

The victim is said to have been visiting his relatives in the city’s KwaMpumuza Township for the duration of the school holidays.

 “We have decided to empty the pool due to the drowning incident. The staff there have cleaned it and are now filling it up but because it is big, it will take time to fill up so it may be closed until Thursday this week,’’ said the mayor.

He urged bathers to obey swimming laws: “People should avoid going to swimming pools or beaches drunk. Water and alcohol do not mix. And they must obey the rules. If people had not gate crashed the place and caused trouble, the lifeguards would have been where they should have been. But they had to help control the crowd.’’

Meanwhile, Jugwanth felt that the emptying of the pool was unnecessary and made allegations that the pool was being mismanaged.

He said they had previously requested the municipality to install counters at the entrance.

“In 2015, CSF asked the municipality to install counters at the gates, so that when a certain number of people is reached they close the pool. They said they don’t have the money to do that. I suppose now that a life has been lost, there will be money to do that. This should not have happened. Our sympathies go out to the family,’’ he concluded.

In response, Njilo said: “Yes, a lifeguard is responsible for 200 people but we were supposed to take in only 600 people, but people jumped over the fence and we ended up with a bigger number of people which made it difficult for the three guards to control the pool. As far as I know, when you enter, you pay for a ticket and therefore are automatically counted.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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