Girl dies following accident at YMCA pool

September 17, 1997


Staff Writer

A 7-year-old Hagerstown girl who nearly drowned at the YMCA last week died on Wednesday after her family authorized doctors to remove her from life support systems.

Karen Trumpower said she had held out hope since last Thursday that her daughter might be able to come home. But Kari Trumpower never regained consciousness, and when her condition took a turn for the worse on Wednesday, she said the family decided to remove the girl from life support systems at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore.

"The doctors said the way Kari was was the way Kari was going to be," she said.

Michael Flicek, executive director of the Hagerstown YMCA, offered condolences to the family.

"Certainly, we are very concerned and express our sympathy to the family and ask the community to pray for them," he said.


Trumpower has hired Glen Burnie, Md., attorney Joseph A. Miklasz to investigate the circumstances leading up to the accident last Thursday.

Thomas Granger, a representative of the firm, criticized the YMCA for uncooperativeness. He said officials refused even to allow him to see the swimming pool where the accident occurred.

"They wouldn't even let me in the door," he said. "I call that obstruction."

According Hagerstown City Police, Kari Trumpower was part of a Girls Inc. outing that was divided between a large pool and a small pool based on swimming ability.

When another class arrived at about 4:45 p.m. to use the shallow pool, the girls were moved to the large pool, police said. Somehow, the Salem Avenue School second-grader slipped by chaperones who were placing flotation devices on the girls, police said.

A lifeguard dove in the pool after seeing the girl under 4 to 8 feet of water, according to police.

How the girl managed to get into deep water without anyone seeing her remains a mystery.

"The child should have been double-protected. This shouldn't have happened," Granger said.

Karen Trumpower said she dropped her daughter off at Girls Inc. at about 3:45 p.m. on Thursday. It was only her daughter's second time at the pool, she added.

When she signed Kari up, Trumpower said she marked on an information card that her child could not swim. She said she was not aware that her daughter would ever be moved from the shallow pool to the deep pool.

"I was not told any of this," she said.

Trumpower said her daughter had waded in shallow water before, but was afraid to be covered in water - even while bathing.

"I had told Girls Inc. when I signed her up that she had to be in the beginners group because she didn't know how to swim," she said.

Detectives Mark Holtzman and Carroll Braun, who are investigating the accident, are away on training until Friday. But Sgt. Ronald Graves said Washington County State's Attorney Ken Long has been informed of the circumstances, and probably will review the final police report as a matter of course.

Police have "no reason to believe it was anything other than an accident," Graves said.

Long said Wednesday morning that he had not yet been asked by police to review the case.

Representatives of the YMCA and Girls Inc. had little to say Wednesday.

"We're not commenting," said Maureen Grove, program director of Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. has no executive director.

Flicek said the large pool ranges from about 3 feet in depth to about 10 feet. The smaller pool, which is in another room, ranges from about 3 feet to 4 1/2 feet, he said.

Flicek said a regular YMCA lesson took over the smaller pool at about 4:45 p.m. He said various groups use the swimming pools. Most use YMCA lifeguards, but he said some bring their own.

When an organization provides their own lifeguards, the YMCA requires certification, Flicek said.

Flicek declined, however, to say whether Girls Inc. used its own lifeguards or how many were on duty during the time of the accident. He referred those questions to Dan Schukraft, an insurance agent and member of the YMCA's risk management team.

Schukraft did not return phone calls on Wednesday.

Staff Writer Terry Talbert contributed to this story.

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