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Editorial - Questions we must ask

September 18, 1997

The board of the Hagerstown YMCA issued a statement this past Friday on the death of 7-year-old Kari Trumpower, who died last Wednesday after she was removed from the life-support systems that had kept her alive ever since she nearly drowned at the Y on Sept. 11.

In terms of expressing sorrow, the YMCA's statement said all the right things. But it didn't provide what is still lacking more than a week after the event - an account of what happened. We still believe, as we said in our Friday editorial, that the delay is unacceptable and wouldn't be tolerated in other, less rural areas.

In saying that, we do not mean to suggest that the Hagerstown police are inept or that YMCA board members are heartless. Hagerstown does not have the violence and the wide-open drug dealing that plagues some Tri-state area towns because this city has a well-trained, professional police force. And the character-building activities the YMCA has provided for local youth for decades are well-known.

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We believe that information has not been released more quickly because neither agency has made it a top priority, as it should be - as it would be - in a more metropolitan area. As we told Paula Lampton, the YMCA board's vice president, we believe that whoever is advising the board to withhold information is handing out bad advice.

Lampton did say that if something similar had happened at The Herald-Mail, we would have the same reluctance to comment. Bad things have happened here, including the August 1978 death of a worker who was pressure testing an ink tank during construction of our building at 100 Summit Ave. We reported that and other incidents as fully and as quickly as possible, because, like the YMCA, we're asking for the public's trust every day.

We are not asking for this information for ourselves, but for Kari's family and the families of all children who swim there. They deserve to know the answers to these questions: What happened? Was it some freak accident, or something that could have been prevented? Are other children safe? Until everyone knows those answers, we won't stop asking these questions.

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