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Hotels ‘must improve pool safety standards, designs’

SINGAPORE — Strong parallels between two unrelated cases of teenagers drowning in hotel swimming pools have prompted the State Coroner to call for hotels to improve safety standards and designs of their pools.

SINGAPORE — Strong parallels between two unrelated cases of teenagers drowning in hotel swimming pools have prompted the State Coroner to call for hotels to improve safety standards and designs of their pools.

Noting that such drownings are “inherently preventable”, Mr Marvin Bay today (Aug 11) said hotels should look to public swimming pools as the “gold standard” for water safety, and have features such as automated external defibrillators on the ready.

The State Coroner’s comments came as he recorded the drownings of Yao Junjie, 12, and Wu Jintang, 15, as “tragic misadventures”.

In both cases, which happened at Hotel Royal and Orchard Parade Hotel, respectively, there were neither lifeguards on duty nor notices on the pool’s depth, he noted. Resuscitation equipment was also absent, he added.

Given that Singapore’s hotels see a sizeable number of foreign students — many of whom, said Mr Bay, are weak- or non-swimmers — the State Coroner said the set of safety messages put out by the National Water Safety Council may not be familiar to visitors.

Following the drowning cases, Hotel Royal said it plans to set up notice boards indicating pool depths and the possible risks of drowning, while ensuring at least one hotel staff who is a competent swimmer is on each of its shifts. The management of Orchard Parade Hotel also told investigators that it started assigning lifeguards by its pool between 7am and 10pm daily since April 13.

The Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Hotel Association could not respond to TODAY’s queries by press time.

But the National Environment Agency has issued suggested guidelines on safety features in pool design and landscape which call on architects or professional engineers to include water-depth markings at the shallow and deep ends of pools, and at the transition points.

Yao and Wu were in Singapore on separate school trips when they drowned. Yao, a non-swimmer, arrived on Jan 31 for a summer camp with 14 classmates and a teacher.

The students were given a “large measure of free time and free use of (Hotel Royal’s) amenities”, the court was told.

At about 8.20pm on Feb 3, the 1.62m-tall boy jumped into the centre of the hotel’s pool, which was between 1.2m and 2m deep. Within minutes, he was seen struggling. Although Yao’s classmates threw rescue buoys and plastic chairs into the pool to try to help him, they were unsuccessful.

The hotel’s receptionist managed to pull him out of the pool at 8.26pm, but Yao was unresponsive to cardiopulmonary resuscitation by then. He was sent to the hospital that night and pronounced dead nine days later.

In the second case, Wu visited Singapore on a cultural exchange programme with 26 students and two trainers from the Shaolin Wushu Wenwu School on Feb 12.

After a briefing at around 9pm, the students were told to stay in their rooms, but Wu and a few others disregarded instructions and wandered to the hotel’s pool.

Wu jumped into the deepest end of the pool — about 3m-deep — and never surfaced, but was discovered lying motionless on the pool bed only more than 10 minutes later.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 11.10pm the same day. Wu’s classmates testified that they had never learnt swimming or been in a pool, and were “excited to see a pool in Singapore”.

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