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Girls club drops YMCA outings after death

September 30, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Girls Inc. has suspended weekly swimming outings at the YMCA until the Y assures officials that it is safe, the after-school program's board president said Tuesday.

Girls Inc. board President Angie Sievers said the group suspended the swimming outings immediately after the Sept. 11 accidental drowning of 7-year-old Kari Trumpower, a member of the group. She said Girls Inc. has demanded that the YMCA provide a written proposal detailing its safety measures.

A copy of the Hagerstown Police Department report detailing the department's investigation of the incident has been sent to the attorney for the family of Kari Trumpower, Police Chief Dale J. Jones said.

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Copies also will be given to the YMCA and Girls Inc.

Sievers said the YMCA's lifeguards were on duty during the accident. She said she did not know how many lifeguards were on duty at the time.

Girls Inc. officials want the YMCA proposal to include information on how many YMCA lifeguards will be on duty and whether the girls will be moved from one pool to another, Sievers said.

Board officials will review the YMCA's recommendations before deciding whether to continue participating in the swimming program, she said.

"We believe it's just a terrible accident and our girls really want to go swimming," Sievers said. Girls Inc. members range in age from 6 to 18.

Kari Trumpower was one of a group of about 24 girls from Girls Inc. who participated in a regular swimming outing at the YMCA on Sept. 11, Sievers said.

At about 4:45 p.m. that afternoon, swimmers at a smaller pool were moved to the larger pool in another room when a YMCA class began, police said. While Girls Inc. chaperones were outfitting the girls with flotation devices, a lifeguard saw Trumpower beneath at least 4 feet of water in the large pool and dove in to pull her out, police said.

The youngster never regained consciousness and her parents authorized doctors to remove her from life-support systems on Sept. 17.

YMCA Executive Director Michael Flicek said no other groups had withdrawn from swimming programs at the 149 N. Potomac St. YMCA since the accident.

He said it would be three or four months before he could determine whether membership declined after the accident.

Neither the police nor the YMCA has released detailed information about the accident.

Jones said the police department doesn't release investigation reports to the media, but a copy of the report detailing the department's investigation of the incident has been sent to the attorney for the girl's family.

The office of Glen Burnie, Md., attorney Joseph A. Miklasz had not received the report by Tuesday afternoon.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said YMCA officials should inform the community about the incident that led to the accidental drowning.

"They owe it to the public to state what the problems are," McClure said.

"If I had a child taking swimming lessons in there, I would want to know," he said.

Flicek said the YMCA has no plans to issue a public statement. Such a decision would have to be discussed by the YMCA's board of directors.

Sievers said she does not know yet whether Girls Inc. officials will make the report available to members. Had there been criminal negligence, they would have shared the information with the girls' parents, she said.

Police have ruled out any criminal violation of the law in the death, but refused to elaborate on the details of the accident.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the police department was limited to conducting a criminal investigation.

The police are not in a position to analyze and assess the YMCA's operation and staff training to determine if the YMCA was negligent in a way other than criminally, Zimmerman said.

"I really think the YMCA needs to address those concerns," he said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he believes it's up to the family to decide whether to release the report to the public. He said it's his opinion that the report is a private matter among the family, police and the YMCA, and that it is not the police department's responsibility to release it.

"It's a tragic incident. Someone failed. There's no doubt about it," Boyer said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he plans to ask Jones at next Tuesday's council meeting why the police haven't made the report public.

He said he would neither criticize nor support the chief's decision until he has a chance to discuss it with Jones and the council.

Part of that discussion might have to be held behind closed doors if it concerns personal information, such as the names of people interviewed, he said. The discussion about how the police department's management made that decision should be done in open session, he said.

Police could black out personal information in the report before making it public, Metzner suggested.

Councilman William M. Breichner said he's concerned about releasing the report when there's a possibility of a lawsuit or private investigation by the family.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he supported Jones' decision not to release the report.

"He's my chief. He's made a decision," Bruchey said.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she wouldn't comment on the matter until she talked with Jones.

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