Video reveals new details in Chelsea Piers near-drowning
Updated 8:04 pm, Friday, August 4, 2017
STAMFORD — The lifeguard who pulled a 5-year-old New Canaan boy from a Chelsea Piers pool this week has refused to speak to authorities until he hires an attorney as police say new evidence reveals the child was submerged for about four minutes.
The boy remained unconscious and in “critically stable” condition Friday at Yale-New Haven’s Children’s Hospital, Lt. Tom Barcello said.
Capt. Richard Conklin said the 23-year-old lifeguard pulled the child from the pool and began administering CPR at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Chelsea Piers staff and medics performed three rounds of CPR to get the boy breathing again.
Police initially believed the child was underwater for about three minutes. However, Conklin said Friday “clear and concise” video from several angles that he called disturbing to watch showed the boy was submerged for about four minutes.
Conklin said police have conducted interviews of witnesses who were at the pool, but are waiting for the lifeguard to hire an attorney.
“That is clearly his right,” Conklin said. “We hope to revisit our plans to talk to him next week when he has an opportunity to hire counsel.”
Conklin said police are investigating if criminal negligence was involved in the incident.
“The investigation is in its preliminary stages. It is premature for us to tell,” he said. “We are studying the video tape and doing interviews at this point.”
The incident occurred in Chelsea Piers’ popular 6,000-square-foot Splash Zone, which consists of three pools with slides and other children’s activities.
The boy was participating in a Chelsea Piers soccer camp that went to the Splash Zone during a break on Thursday. Sgt. Chris DiCarlo said there were between 20 and 30 children in the Splash Zone when the incident occurred.
Erica Bates, a spokeswoman for Chelsea Piers, released a brief statement Friday in response to questions about safety protocols in the Splash Zone, but she declined to comment further citing the ongoing investigation.
“During all camp swim and splash recreation periods, we always meet and or exceed all lifeguarding and safety requirements,” Bates wrote in an emailed statement. “Lifeguards are all certified and we employ best practices as outlined by the American Red Cross.”
One Darien mother whose son attended a Chelsea Piers sports program this week was stunned Friday when she realized the pool was still open.
“My jaw dropped,” said Suzanne Papajohn, whose son James, 5, was in the Splash Zone on Thursday but not at the same time as the near-drowning.
“I don’t want him in the pool there, ever. This has changed me,” said Papajohn, 32. “Even if you have lifeguards there, just one minute underwater can cause so much damage. There really is no margin of error when you have a child like that.”
Papajohn also criticized Chelsea Piers’ communication to parents about the incident.
“Chelsea Piers has to understand that as parents we need to understand what they are going to do to make sure it does not happen again,” she said.
Joulia Berry said she has only had positive experiences at Chelsea Piers and expects the sports complex to respond to the incident by increasing supervision and adding more safety measures.
“I want to find out more details as the investigation unfolds, about how this actually happened, and more importantly, how it will be prevented from ever happening again,” the Darien resident said.
Conklin said the name of the boy, who was flown to New Haven after Stamford Hospital doctors spent hours Thursday stabilizing his seizures, will likely be released next week.