11-year-old junior lifeguard dies after drill

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Personal Injury News

Article Date: 7/15/2009 | Resource: MLG

11-year-old junior lifeguard dies after drill

“Lifeguard boat hits girl during swimmer rescue training in Huntington Beach.”

HUNTINGTON BEACH – An 11-year-old junior lifeguard died just hours after being run over by a lifeguard boat during routine training Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

It is the first time a junior lifeguard has been killed during training since the Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Program began in 1964.

Allyssa Squirrell of Laguna Hills was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange where she died in surgery around 5:30 p.m., said Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino.

“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of one of our junior lifeguards,” said Mayor Keith Bohr. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Allysa in this time of tragedy.”

Authorities initially reported the girl had been slashed by the boat’s propeller but have now backed away from that statement, saying the accident is under investigation.

The girl was doing routine training with a group of 20 to 25 junior lifeguards when she was injured just before 3 p.m., said Huntington Beach city spokeswoman Laurie Payne. The group of junior lifeguards were 11- and 12-years-old.

The junior lifeguards were practicing a “speed drop,” a skill used by lifeguards to reach swimmers in distress as quickly as possible, Payne said.

The lifeguard boat dropped the group of junior lifeguards into the water as part of the drill, Payne said. The boat was circling to pull the lifeguards out of the water the boat hit one of the junior guards in the water, Payne said.

The injured girl was taken from the water and given first aid, Payne said. But surgeons were unable to save her.

The Sheriff’s Department is heading the accident investigation. The Coast Guard has also been notified of the accident, Payne said.

A 32-year veteran marine safety officer was piloting the lifeguard boat that hit the 11-year-old. He has been interviewed by sheriff’s investigators, Amormino said.

“He is extremely devastated,” Amormino said.

An instructor was aboard the lifeguard boat and a second instructor was in the water, Amormino said.

The boat has been towed to land, where it is being examined by sheriff’s investigators.

The junior lifeguard program was halfway through the 8-week training program. Training was suspended Wednesday, and counselors are available to console the children and staff traumatized by witnessing the accident.

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Jeffrey Marquart