EXCLUSIVE: Baltimore Pool’s Report on Lowenthal Death Was Filed Late With Health Department and Seems to Claim Three Lifeguards Were Present

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February 18, 2013
Complete Links to ConcussionInc.net’s Coverage of the Death of a 14-Year-Old at Michael Phelps’ Swim Club
February 18, 2013

“SWIMMER WHO HAD BEEN ATTENDING SWIM PRACTICE APPARENTLY REMAINED IN THE POOL AREA AS PRACTICE WAS ENDING. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT IS UNKNOWN AT THIS TIME. STAFF WAS ALERTED A SHORT TIME LATER THAT SWIMMER WAS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL. SWIMMER WAS PULLED FROM THE POOL … [redacted].”

The Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene this morning transmitted to me via email a response to my public information request for documents submitted by the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center following the Louis Lowenthal drowning death.

The completed incident report form and an accompanying diagram of the pool are viewable at http://muchnick.net/meadowbrookreport.pdf.

Lowenthal, 14, a swimmer with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at Meadowbrook, was pulled from the pool, alone and unconscious, on the morning of October 28, 2012. He was pronounced dead three days later after being kept on life support to allow doctors to harvest internal organs for donation.

Meadowbrook’s lifeguard manual (which was appended to the health department report but not uploaded by me) explains that the guard team “is an integral part of three separate business entities”: Meadowbrook, the Michael Phelps Swim School, and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. The report to the health department was signed by John Cadigan, who is both general manager of Meadowbrook and director of operations for the swim club.

In a cover letter to me, Dr. Clifford S. Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau, explained that the department “redacted all information that would be considered protected health information on the form.”

Two discrepancies are immediately apparent. The first is the untimeliness of Meadowbrook’s filing. Under the law, a facility must file a report on a drowning or near-drowning incident within 24 hours. The time stamp at the top of Meadowbrook’s fax indicates that the form was transmitted at 3:19 p.m. on October 31 — 77 hours after the 10 a.m. October 28 incident.

The second discrepancy, or at least ambiguity, concerns the response on line 12 of the report form regarding the number of lifeguards present. The form says three lifeguards were present, but the sources with whom I’ve spoken are unanimous in stating that the correct answer is zero. It is possible that Cadigan means to be explaining that three employee lifeguards were in the middle of scheduled work shifts for Meadowbrook during the relevant period.

In a similar vein, the accompanying diagram purports to show the guards’ locations vis-a-vis the victim. But the only thing clearly established by the diagram is the location of guard chairs — which, again, were unoccupied, according to witnesses.

I have followed up with questions about these discrepancies with the health department’s Mitchell. I also asked Mitchell to disclose the questions asked on the report form on lines 6 through 10. Both the questions and the Meadowbrook responses on those lines are redacted, but only the latter would contain protected information.

 
Irv Muchnick

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