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Lifeguards stress importance of parents’ vigilance after near-drowning at Valley Park pool

Parents keep a close eye on their children Tuesday after a boy was pulled from the water 24 hours earlier.

There were some scary moments at the Valley Park Wave Pool in Hurricane on Monday afternoon when a Good Samaritan saved a child's life, pulling him from the water.

Park officials are re-enforcing the best protocols and procedures for how everyone can prepare for the unexpected. On Tuesday morning, park officials met with their lifeguards to go over extra safety measures, but they also are stressing the importance of a parent's presence, saying it's better to be safe than sorry.

"When these waves come on, they start rolling and the kids get caught right up in it,” said grandmother Tena Smith, who knows a thing or two about the pool. Her two kids were lifeguards here years ago. “You've got to keep an eye on your children. Don't let them out of your sight."

Words of wisdom - and the protocol that everyone seemed to be following - less than 24 hours after a child nearly drowned.

"The boy was in the pool alone, and he was in the 5-foot section. That boy is fortunate to be alive,” said Jarrod Dean, executive director of Putnam County Parks and Recreation.

Dean said the lifeguards followed the proper procedures, and moving forward, they will hold swimmers and parents even more accountable.

"We don't allow people to jump in when the waves are going. We only allow one person per tube. Two people can hang off the tube, but that's the limit,” said Mindy Huffman, aquatics director at Tri-County YMCA.

Floatation devices must be Coast Guard approved.

"If the child goes limp, their head will be supported above the water. If they're not Coast Guard approved, they actually hinder the child," Huffman said.

The boy's life vest was not. Dean said the lifeguards followed the protocol and asked the child's parents to have that life vest removed.

Six lifeguards are on duty at all times, and two more are added when the waves are activated. Young children in the pool must be within arm’s length of a parent or guardian, and any child 12 or under must have a parent or guardian in sight.

"We have a buddy system. Each of them has a partner they can't leave without. Then, they check in with me, and I’m just standing by the pool, surrounding them, watching them,” said parent Sasha Varney.

Dean said parents have to be alert.

"Don't be watching your cell phones, don't walk off. Be with your kids. That's why you're here in the park - to be with your kids, to be with family, and to have a good time,” Dean said.

No charges will be filed against the boy’s parents.

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