Coroner: Kids need supervision in water

Three-year-old's drowning in resort pool ruled a 'tragic misadventure'

YOUNG children should be supervised whenever they are in water, such as in a swimming pool.

State Coroner Marvin Bay made this point when giving his findings on the drowning of a three-year-old boy at the Aloha Loyang Resort last December - calling it a "tragic misadventure".

He also suggested that operators of pools open to the public check if they have enough life guards to meet their needs.

And he further advised these operators to have life-saving devices such as the oropharyngeal airway - which keeps a patient's airway open - available in various sizes, so they can be used on toddlers and young children in emergencies.

  • Preventing suffocation

    AN OROPHARYNGEAL airway is a medical device used to maintain or open a patient's airway.

    Especially in a case of drowning, when a person becomes unconscious, the jaw muscles relax and allow the tongue to obstruct the airway.

    The device prevents suffocation by stopping the tongue from covering the opening of the windpipe.

    The device costs about US$49 (S$66) per pack of 50, and comes in different sizes. It is often sold as part of an emergency resuscitation kit.

    The device is currently not commonly used in Singapore's pools, it seems. A spokesman for the Singapore Life Saving Society, a lifeguards' association, said that "in Singapore, lifeguards are not usually required to be emergency medical technicians or paramedics so we don't stock them or use them".

    CHEOW SUE-ANN

Last Friday's coroner's findings on the death of Muhammad Isaac Sau'ifi came just five days after a seven-year-old boy drowned in a Resorts World Sentosa pool.

Isaac was pronounced dead on Dec 21, a day after he was found floating face down in the children's pool.

His parents had taken him and his six siblings to the chalet on the evening of Dec 20 for a family gathering.

After dinner at about 6.30pm, they went for a swim.

About half an hour later, Isaac's 28-year-old mother went to the toilet while her 30-year-old husband went for a smoke, taking along their youngest daughter, aged one.

The five older ones, including Isaac, were told to swim at the side of the pool.

Isaac reportedly could not swim.

When the parents returned a short while later, they noticed Isaac was missing. After a search, they found him lying in the pool and quickly pulled him out.

A lifeguard performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him, helped by the resort's operations manager as well as the child's uncle, a trained nurse.

When the ambulance came, paramedics continued with the resuscitation until they reached Changi General Hospital.

The boy remained unconscious and was transferred to KK Women's and Children's Hospital's intensive care unit for further treatment.

Isaac suffered, among other things, bleeding in the lungs and brain damage, with mild organ dysfunction.

His condition progressively worsened. He died at 2.46am the next day.

The court heard that Isaac, born borderline premature, had a history of brain damage caused by oxygen loss when he was two months old and warded.

Coroner Bay said in his findings, without attributing blame to any party, that the case "underscores the need for young children to be conscientiously and scrupulously supervised'' when they are placed in a body of water.

"A drowning can occur in deceptively shallow water.

A submerged person can suffer death or irrecoverable injury within a very short space of time."

elena@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Coroner: Kids need supervision in water'. Print Edition | Subscribe