October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Too few lifeguards at Kalahari, county says

SANDUSKY — The number of lifeguards was below compliance level Monday at a water park where a 3-year-old boy drowned a day earlier, county inspectors said.

Kalahari Resorts, which bills itself as the nation’s largest water park, had said staffing levels exceeded compliance on Sunday when Hassan Itani of Dearborn, Mich., drowned in 3-foot-deep water.

Kalahari spokeswoman Carrie Leum said 67 lifeguards were at the water park on Sunday, including five in the outdoor area. The private resort on Lake Erie said lifeguards had spotted the boy in the shallow end of the outdoor lagoon pool by the time his mother began searching.

But inspectors found that at times on Monday, the number of swimmers in the pool area, which is part of the outdoor area, required another lifeguard in addition to the two who were on duty, said Erie County Director of Environmental Health Bob England.

At Kalahari, at least three lifeguards are required in areas where there are 51 to 150 bathers.

The county was unsure how many bathers were in the pool area Sunday.

According to the report, the resort said two lifeguards were on duty in the area Sunday and that Kalahari has agreed to staff the area with three lifeguards in the future.

England said it’s the park’s responsibility to monitor the number of bathers. He said he has in the past seen Kalahari lifeguards take a quick head count and restrict bathers from certain areas when numbers get too high.

The county found no lifeguard violations during prior inspections.

But the state has disciplined Kalahari at least four times since the resort opened in 2005. At least two violations were for no guards or not enough guards on duty.

Earlier this year, the park paid a $29,500 fine to settle a complaint from 2008 that included allegations of eight water rides operating without sufficient guards and two guards without valid certification.

The 173,000-square-foot park in Sandusky features rides such as the Elephant Trunk and the Rippling Rhino.