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Editorial - An outrageous delay

September 18, 1997

Is Washington County still a rural area? If you doubt it, consider this: A week after an accident in the Hagerstown YMCA pool that led to a little girl's death, citizens still don't have a final report on what happened. That is outrageous.

Kari Trumpower, 7, died this past Wednesday after her family allowed doctors to remove her from life support. She never regained consciousness after the Sept. 11 incident, which began with a YMCA outing with a group from Girls, Inc.

Police at first said the group was divided, based on individuals' swimming ability, between the YMCA's large and small pools. At about 4:45 p.m., another group came to use the small pool, and the Girls, Inc. children were all moved to the large pool. As chaperones put flotation devices on the children, police said Kari, whose parents said she could not swim, apparently slipped by the adults and ended up unconscious in four to eight feet of water.

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At the time, the police issued a press release which, among other things, asked the media not to contact the child's family, other children and the staff members of the YMCA and Girls. Inc., pending "completion of the investigation."

Wednesday police told a Herald-Mail reporter a slightly different version of the story. In this scenario, all the children were in the small pool at the start of the outing, and moved to the large pool in two groups later. Police said Kari supposedly told chaperones she could swim and was moved with the first group going to the large pool. The child's family has hired an attorney, whose office says he's been refused access to the YMCA.

The city police detectives on the case were out of town for a training session yesterday, and the YMCA wouldn't say whether its own lifeguards were on duty, or people hired by Girls, Inc. The Herald-Mail was able to use the victim's name only because the attorney's office called, wondering why Kari's parents hadn't been asked for comment!

If this incident had taken place in Prince Georges County, or even Frederick County, all the details would have been out by the following Monday, if not before. This delay is unacceptable. When a child dies after an incident at a facility supported by private donors and taxpayers' dollars, it shouldn't take more than a week for authorities to tell everyone why.

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