One of the saddest news stories for me this week was the tragic death of two young girls in a swimming pool. The sad thing about it is that it could have been prevented.
My heart goes out to the parents who lost both their daughters in one blow, particularly the mother who was there, but not there when she was most needed. I have nothing but sympathy for her; I was in very much the same situation many years back.
Like any Thai mother, you spend your days finding extra-curricular activities for your children to take up. Girls have to take up piano, ballet, art, English, singing, swimming, Kumon, riding...
Boys do many of those, plus football, skateboarding, taekwondo and golf.
When my kids were young, I spent many an hour by the swimming pool as my kids went through the motions of kicking their way across the width of the 25m pool, and gradually progressing to endless laps of freestyle and breaststroke in the 50m pool.
I, too, have taken toilet breaks as my kids enjoyed an extended session in the pool. What kid doesn't enjoy swimming?
It was on one of these toilet breaks that a pool supervisor shouted into the ladies' dressing room that my son had had an accident. I rushed out, by which time he had already been taken off to the first aid room.
He had come down the slide into the pool, head first, with his swim goggles on, and crashed into another kid in the pool, gashing his eyebrow in the process.
Luckily the lifeguard on duty had seen the incident and been quick to the rescue. By the time I reached the first aid room, my son had been patched up and, apart from being a little shaken by the experience, none the worse for wear.
On another occasion, he was playing in a kiddie pool at a beachside resort. Without any warning, he decided he wanted to try the bigger pool, and proceeded to jump in, not realising it was much deeper than he anticipated. It happened in a matter of seconds, and before I could shout, "Wait for Mummy!" he had gone under. His dad jumped in after him, clothes and all, and pulled him out. Though he was able to laugh after the ordeal, he didn't try anything foolish again.
Though the swimming pool at Soi Chokchai 4 was far from empty, no one noticed what happened to the two sisters, aged nine and seven. The mother is still hoping that a CCTV footage might reveal exactly what happened.
I can just visualise it, however. The kids are playing in the kiddie pool which is an extension of the big pool. The mother, who usually has her eagle eyes on the kids, takes a toilet break. One of the girls, probably the younger one, decides to go in the big pool. After all, they go in there for their swimming lessons.
What they don't realise is that the middle section of the pool is deeper, a lot deeper, than the ends where they probably have their lessons.
One goes under and the sister probably tries to save her. With only a couple of lessons notched up, they are hardly in a position to save themselves, much less other people.
Both were found together at the bottom of the pool.
The mother bemoaned that there were so many people around, so why didn't anyone notice her two girls.
Perhaps that's precisely why.
When there are a lot of people in the pool, and a lot of splashing, it's difficult for people to see someone actually struggling.
That's why every pool needs a trained lifeguard, which apparently this pool didn't have. All the swimming teachers were busy with their own students, and they said they depended on the parents to keep an eye on their kids.
I hope this sets a precedent for all public and private swimming pools. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure _ this should be a mantra for everything in Thailand, where people tend to blame disasters on bad kharma instead of bad planning.
At least the poor mother won't have lost her two daughters for nothing.
Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the Features Editor of the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor