3-year-old falls in pool without a life vest during swim lesson, YMCA now investigating

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YMCA officials are investigating after a Calgary mother says she had to pull her three-year-old daughter from the water during a swimming lesson after the little girl fell in without a floatation device, which wasn’t noticed by the instructor or a lifeguard.

Paula Pryia says her daughter, Ellie, was sitting on the edge of the pool with other kids — who she says also weren’t wearing floatation devices at the time — during the class at the Remington facility in southeast Calgary on Friday afternoon when she fell in.

The instructor was working with each child individually while the others waited, said Pryia, but would turn her back to the group to do a floating exercise. She added the kids normally wear floatation devices during the lesson but take it off for parts of the class..

“As she was doing this, my daughter turned to wave at me and she slipped and fell into the pool and nobody noticed,” said Pryia.

“The instructor didn’t notice because her back was turned and the lifeguard had his back turned, so I had to jump over the little glass wall.”

She described the wall as being about 1.5 metres high.

“She was drowning, she was going up and down and up and down, I got to her as fast as I could and I pulled her out, she was coughing and gasping for air,” she said. “I grabbed her by the arms and pulled her out and she gave me a hug, she was pretty distraught.”


The Remington YMCA facility in southeast Calgary. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

Another mother yelled as Pryia pulled her daughter from the water, alerting the instructor.

“The lifeguard also turned around and they both watched me pull her out,” she said. “I was shaking. I can’t get the mental picture of my daughter drowning out of my head. That will forever be embedded in my brain.”

Pryia figures the entire incident lasted only a matter of seconds.

After posting about it on social media, Pryia says she was contacted by other families, who told similar stories of their kids falling into the water unnoticed during a lesson.

“This apparently is a problem, this has happened more than once,” she said.

Investigation launched

Ken Lima-Coelho, vice-president of community engagement with YMCA Calgary, says the family will be made aware of the findings of an investigation.

“And that investigation is being led by our senior leadership team,” he said. “No-one was injured, thankfully, but we are reviewing our procedures as well as taking a look at any pieces of evidence and information we can, including our CCTV and talking to the lifeguards and talking to the supervisor in the area.”

Lima-Coelho said safety is the top priority at all YMCA facilities.

“We have a very robust system at the YMCA on child protection and aquatic protection,” he said. “So if there are lessons to be learned from what transpired, we will certainly put those into practise.”

The family also received a letter from Tanya Connelly-Scott, vice-president of health and wellness for YMCA Calgary, apologizing for the incident.

“I can only imagine how scary and upsetting this must have been for your family and others who may have witnessed what happened,” the letter reads in part.

“The health and safety of all of our YMCA participants is of the utmost importance to us, so we are taking this situation very seriously. YMCA Calgary senior leadership is overseeing a full investigation to determine what happened and how our team’s response could have been improved.”

Pryia says Ellie no longer wants to take swimming lessons.

“I’m sure she’ll get over it at some point, she has a strong personality but right now she’s pretty shaken up by it,” she said.


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