Manchester (Conn.) High School's pool has been shut down and its physical education swimming unit removed indefinitely, following the Nov. 21 drowning of a freshman boy.

New information revealed Monday indicates that Malvrick Donkor, a Ghana native who recently moved to the Manchester area, was underwater in the deep end of the pool for approximately 17 minutes. According to the Hartford Courant, a surveillance camera at the pool showed the 14-year-old student climbing down a ladder into the pool's deep end. "There's no splashing, no flailing like you would typically think of," an unnamed source who viewed the surveillance footage told the newspaper. "He just slipped underwater. Other kids were swimming over the top of him, not knowing he was down below."

It wasn't until after class ended that students noticed Donkor's body. P.E. teacher Thayer Redman jumped in and pulled the boy out of the pool; he later died at a local hospital. Redman has been placed on administrative leave, and school officials aren't talking.

Manchester High's principal Matthew Geary did, however, post a letter to students' parents and guardians on the school's home page, inviting them to a vigil Monday night and assuring them that an investigation has begun. "While many questions remain about this terrible tragedy, we have very little information to share at this time. An investigation is under way and will be done thoroughly by trained professionals. The Manchester High School pool is closed until further notice and the swimming unit has been removed from the Physical Education curriculum indefinitely."

According to local media reports, Donkor is the second area high school student to drown in a swimming pool during a supervised P.E. class in 2012. Marcum Asiamah, 15, died Jan. 11 after being found in the East Hartford High School pool.

In October, the family of 14-year-old Antonio Reyes, who was found at the bottom of the deep end of the Wenatchee (Wash.) High School swimming pool after a P.E. class in late 2011, reached a $2 million settlement in a negligence lawsuit filed against the Wenatchee School District. The settlement also called for reforms, including that the district have a certified lifeguard on duty when people are in the pool and that greater efforts be made to evaluate the ability of students to swim, the Associated Press reports.

avatar
Just curious- what was the survelliance camera for? Was that supposed to be used as a lifegaurding tool or was it just a camera for the deck? Were there any lifegaurds on duty?
avatar
Having someone drown during a swimming class is a case of negligence. There's no other way to excuse it.
avatar
The reaction by Manchester High School is exactly the opposite it should have been. It sounds like Wenatchee High School was en route to a good solution. They should continue the swim classes, add the appropriate lifeguard coverage, and then start a post swimming class program to certify the students as Lifeguards.
avatar
Typical. Another over reaction. America is going to 'safe' itself out of existance.
avatar
Shutting the program down is indeed a gross overreaction. Yes, the drowning should not have happened. Yes, an investigation should be conducted to see if anything that could have been done differently to prevent the incident. But unless there are no other qualified instructors or lifeguards available, then the program should continue on training people to swim.
avatar
I agree with AM, we are way over protective. I was taught to swim at age 3, and by 14 was swimming with logs in hugely swollen flood waters. (Parents did not know, but also were not asked to recover my body)What if, when the Donner party got trapped in Truckee, CA there had been a law against eating dead people?
avatar
In Canada, we are seeing a trend in offering Basic Swim Skills / Learn to Swim programs for both youth and Adults to immigrant populations in our communities. In the immediate area surrounding our Recreation & Aquatic Centre, we have 42% English as a Second Language & low income user demographic of our facility. The local elementary schools are recognizing that their participation in our Swim at School programs are often the only swim instructiont that their students will receive and see the value in these programs.
I think that it is highly irresponsible that it is not manditory to have a certified Lifeguard on deck at all times that students are in the water, as these tragic incidents can often be avoided. I agree with the other posters that cancelling the swim program is NOT the solution, and does not benefit anyone. You need to proactively manage the risk to the students and schools while allowing the students to learn valuable skills, not bubble wrap and them and hope they don't vernture out into the real world lacking any skills at all.
avatar
This is a tragic accident that should have never occurred -- it takes 20 seconds for a drowning to happen and most of the time it is a 'silent' situation that goes un-noticed. Which is precisely the reason why there should have been a certified lifeguard in a guard stand to do nothing but 'lifeguard.' it is impossible for that teacher to 'teach' AND vigilantly watch the kids in the pool --
Canceling the swim program is a definite over-reaction, but may be the reality to the outcome of the wrongful death lawsuit that is about to hit that school district.
For the sake of all of the future kids in that district, I hope that they are able to make the necessary adjustments and continue to offer swimming to their students. In many lower income populations this is the ONLY WAY these students can have the opportunity to learn to swim because. Prayers go out to the family in this situation.
avatar
As a water safety expert I'm at a loss as to where to begin. Let's start with the incident: drowning is swift and silent; there is no yelling of waving. This is a dangerous myth.

Many schools allow the gym teacher to be considered a 'lifeguard' , sadly lifeguarding is a full-time task. You cannot do any other activity if you are guarding. Forcing teachers to guard and teach is a recipe for drowning. Insist that your school have lifeguards during swim class, teachers cannot do both!

Closing the pool and cancelling swim lessons are the opposite of what should be happening. This is such a teachable moment. Please educate everyone involved to recognize what drowning really looks like, teach them basic swimming and rescue skills so that this doesn't happen again. That would be the best way to honor Malvrick's memory.


Bob Pratt
Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
facebook Great-Lakes-Surf-Rescue-Project
avatar
For the most part I agree with many of the comments especially Bob's. However, as we do not have the specific elements of the incident it is difficult to fully understand what happened and what measures of safety were in place but that will all come out.

We should all be mindful that a lifeguard alone is not the only solution. We need to have the adequate layers of protection which include a competent vigilant lifeguard with the operational safeguards and practices in place to be successful. Unfortunately, many schools do not have these measures in place as they set up their aquatic PE curriculum. And until these layers of protections are implemented we will continue to see this type of tradgedy unfold and rash response when they do.

Drowning is Preventable www.preventdrowningca.org