Seattle hotel pool drowning raises safety questions

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by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @MegCoyleKING

KING5.com

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 16 at 6:48 PM

A recent drowning in a pool at the Quality Inn and Suites near Seattle Center is raising questions about pool safety. A man's body was found at the bottom of the pool near the drain.
 
It took hours to find the body of WSU grad student Tesfaye Girma Deboch. Recent revelations about safety violations are shedding new light on why.
 
Texas firefighter Tom Fleming was staying at the hotel June 30. He had no idea what he had stepped into when he decided to go for a swim, until he realized he couldn't see the bottom of the pool.

"I start looking down and this is some of the murkiest water I have ever seen," said Fleming.
 
At the time, Fleming was also unaware Seattle firefighter had just searched that same pool for the 27-year-old Deboch. They didn't find him. Eventually Deboch's friends dragged the pool again, with Fleming's help.
 
"About 10 minutes later I felt a little clunk right there and located the body," recalled Fleming.
 
Fleming believes the suction from the drain had pinned Deboch at the bottom of the pool.
 
"We definitely want to make sure that's operating and it's the owner/operator responsibility to test that on a regular basis," said Mark Rowe, manager of King County Public Health's Water Recreation Program.
 
A faulty drain and murky water were both violations that showed up in a recent inspection by King County Health.

A month before the drowning-- the chlorine level was at zero. As in, there was no chlorine in the pool. The water clarity was described as hazy or cloudy. Also noted in the report, a reminder to hotel staff that if you can't see the main drain cover, to close the pool immediately. Which they did.
 
Two days later they fixed the problems, and the pool reopened.
 
Fast forward to several days after the drowning, when inspectors returned. The list of violations was even longer. In addition to murky water, they found that the emergency shut-off for the drain wasn't working. The water level was too low. And inspectors were unable to find the hotel's pool operations manual.
 
"That pool was in such poor condition trying to locate a victim in that pool was the equivalent of trying to find a needle in a haystack," said Fleming.
 
The pool has been closed ever since and will remain closed pending the outcome of the investigation.
 
The Quality Inn and Suites' General Manager didn't want to comment because of the ongoing investigation. But he did express his condolences and said he is cooperating fully with investigators.
 
Seattle Fire is also reviewing the incident to determine why firefighters were unable to locate Deboch's body during the initial search of the pool.

 

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