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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 

Four workers let go after investigation into woman's death in Fall River state pool

By Ben Wolford, Globe Correspondent

Three state employees have resigned and a Fall River city health inspector has been fired as a result of dual investigations into the accident at Veterans Memorial Swimming Pool in Fall River that resulted in Marie Joseph's death, officials said today.

Joseph, 36, drowned June 26 and her body went undiscovered for two days even though the pool remained open to the public. Today, Fall River Mayor William Flanagan said he has fired city health inspector Roger Casavant who issued a city permit for the pool even when the water was "cloudy" and Joseph's body was still in the pool.


Family members, friends say adieu to Haitian-American who found death in Fall River swimming pool

"He took no action," Flanagan said. "If he had taken some action he would have been fulfilling his responsibilities to the public that he served."

Flanagan also said that when Casvant noticed that the pool was cloudy on June 28, he did not alert the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns and oeprates the opool. Rather, he issued a permit signing off on the pool as OK.

The city permit was never delivered because Joseph's body was discovered hours later.

Flanagan announced the firing of Casavant a few hours after DCR announced the resignations of three DCR employees. State officials also said they now believe that the pool should not have been open on June 26 when Joseph went for a swim there.

The water was too murky, obstructing any view of the woman after she drifted below the water's surface, state officials said.

The names of the employees were not released, but DCR Commissioner Edward M. Lambert Jr. said they were the pool manager, the assistant pool manager, and DCR's southeast regional director. Also, the DCR district manager was placed on administrative leave and could face further sanctions. Lambert said he requested the resignations.

marie joseph

Marie Joseph


Speaking for the DCR, Chief Park Ranger Curt Rudge outlined the results of the investigation he is leading and provided new details of Joseph's struggle to survive.

After reviewing surveillance video of the pool, Rudge said the DCR now believes that the pool should never have opened on June 26 because water clarity was so poor. After Joseph's death, a diver sent into the pool disappeared from view after descending 3 to 4 feet under the water.

"Keeping the pool open while water clarity was significantly compromised" was the biggest factor in Joseph's death and the inability of inspectors, lifeguards and swimmers to spot her body, Rudge said.

The cause of the water's cloudiness is still under investigation, said Suzanne Condon, associate commissioner of the Department of Public Health. Several factors can contribute to cloudy pool water, but officials said chlorine levels were adequate.

Rudge also said that DCR rules require two lifeguards to be assigned to the deep end of pools with slides, but only one lifeguard was at that station when Joseph used the slide.

Rudge said the surveillance camera captured Joseph as she slid into the pool. Joseph used the slide about one second after a child did.

After submerging at the bottom of the slide, she resurfaced three seconds later, Rudge said. Then she submerged briefly, resurfaced for a second, and finally disappeared beneath the water, Rudge said.

She did not appear to be struggling, Rudge said.

"It appears from the video that lifeguard stationed at the slide might have had her attention focused on four or five people who were in the water within approximate view of the lifeguard where Ms. Joseph entered the water," Rudge said.

The DCR said they could not substantiate claims by relatives of a 9-year-old Fall River boy -- who preceded Joseph down the slide -- that he tried to get the attention of a lifeguard after he noticed that Joseph had not made it out of the pool.

The boy is seen on the video sliding into the water and exiting the pool, officials said today.

"We continue to include this question as part of our investigation," said Rudge.

Lambert ordered the slides at six DCR pools, including Fall River, be closed while the agency reviews how to safely operate them.

Joseph, 36, drowned June 26 at the Fall River pool.

On June 27, two Fall River city health inspectors visited the pool and scheduled an inspection for the next day.

On June 28, one of them inspected it, noted it was "cloudy" in the report, and then issued a permit allowing the pool to remain open.

Joseph's body was discovered later that night.

Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter has also been investigating Joseph's death.

DCR said it was changing the way water clarity is tested at its pools. Instead of relying on whether a lifeguard can see seals on the pool floor, DCR employees must now use the Secchi disk, a five-inch black and white disk that must be clearly visible one it is tossed into the bottom of the pool.

Published by The Boston Globe Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

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