Will age limits keep kids safe at local pools?

CINCINNATI -- Lifeguards are vigilant and trained in a variety ways to ensure the safety of swimmers of all ages.

But does more need to be done to keep them safe? City Council believes so.

Even with a full compliment of lifeguards at Cincinnati's Bush Recreation Center Pool, Tyrell Wyche wasn't spotted until he had been under water for several minutes.

The 10-year-old had a pulse and was transported to Children's Hospital Medical Center shortly after he was found in pool on June 18. 

The Hamilton County Coroner's Office confirmed on Monday that Wyche died from complications related to his drowning.

As a result of his death and several other scares early in the pool season, City Council has decided watching over many young children may be asking too much of lifeguards.

"We think 7, 8, 9 is too young to be at a pool unaccompanied," said Councilmember Amy Murray. 

Murray and the rest of Council passed a motion stating that no person under the age of 11 can use a city pool if an adult does not accompany them.

The motion was only a suggestion, however, as the Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC) has the ultimate say on issues such as age requirements. But the organization decided to formally adopt Council's suggestion on Friday.

CRC spokesperson Bunny Arszman confirmed to WCPO that new age restrictions are in place during open swim sessions.

According to the CRC's rule and regulations for pools , "Children age 7-11 must be accompanied and supervised by a parent, legal guardian or adult age 18 or older during open swim hours." The website says it went into effect June 26.

That policy is reinforced by signs at each the 23 city pools the policy affects. 

CRC policy previously allowed children as young as 7 years old to be at the pool without being accompanied by an adult.

All children 17 and under are required to be registered with the CRC by a parent or guardian in order to get a season membership or a one-day pass.

While Arszman was able to say Friday that there will be some exceptions for situations like swim lessons, she said additional details won't be available until the new policy is released on Monday.

“We need to put a bandage on this for the next month, or the next month and a half while everyone’s still swimming in July and August, to make sure this doesn’t happen again this summer. 

“Then I think we have the winter to look at a comprehensive plan and look at what other people do.”

Parents like Edgar Scott support the change.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Scott who spent Thursday at a pool in Pleasant Ridge with three of his children. "I think it's added protection for the kids and the lifeguards."

Vashani Walker isn’t so sure.

While the mother understands the push for additional safety measures at local pools, she fears the new restrictions could negatively affect working parents who can’t afford extra child care or summer camps.

Even though the CRC's official rules explicitly state that "lifeguards are not babysitters," Walker says she drops her 10-year-old off at the pool when she goes to work.

"I do that because I'm at work. I just hope that the lifeguards are doing their job," she said.

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