Two teenagers who drowned at the Pella (Iowa) Aquatic Center last week were swimming at night in a pool that did not have working underwater lights. The Des Moines Register reports that the lights have been shut off for about four years while city officials pursued a lawsuit against the company they claim improperly installed the fixtures.
Nehmson Sanon, 15, and Gael Paulette (also known as Gael Chrispin), 14, were found at the bottom of the Pella pool's deep end Wednesday night. The Haiti natives had relocated to Kansas City, Mo., after January's earthquake in that country and were visting Iowa for a week-long camp sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "If the city knows the lights were not working and they rented it to an organization of kids to swim at night, this does not make sense to me," Jean Pierre, a lay brother at First International Baptist Church who knew both boys, told The Kansas City Star. "We have so many questions."
Like this one: Why were Sanon and Paulette even allowed in the pool? According to confirmed reports, the parents of both boys had signed waivers indicating they were "nonswimmers." FCA spokesperson Tom Rogeberg admitted to local reporters that camp counselors made a mistake and left the waivers behind. But he also added that both boys told camp counselors they knew how to swim. In the future, Rogeberg said, counselors will be required to carry waivers with them.
Coincidentally, testimony continued today in the trial between the city of Pella and the installer of the light fixtures. Less than a year after the pool opened in 2004, staff members detected rust on the underwater electrical conduits for the lights and shut them off. The city sued Central Electric Co. of Pella in October 2006 after negotiations failed to resolve the issue.