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Too Late: Drowning Captured on CCTV

by Wendy Laursen of maritime-executive.com

None of the swimmers around Mr Oh noticed his head sink below the water of Pacific Dawn’s forward swimming pool last November. The event, however, was captured by the ships closed circuit television.

Mr Oh, 78, was not a strong swimmer but “comfortable” in the water. On the morning of November 9, he proceeded to the forward swimming pool on deck 12. The ship’s CCTV recording showed Mr Oh completing some brief stretching exercises before entering the pool. He slowly climbed down the pool’s aft bathing ladder and entered the water. The pool’s temperature was 30˚C. He swam gently near the ladder and then moved under the port water fountain, allowing the water to flow over his head. He then swam away from the fountain for a longer period towards the center of the pool before returning to the spot directly under the water fountain and, at one stage, appeared to briefly touch the side of the pool with his hand.

There were at least four other passengers in the pool when the recording showed Mr Oh’s head then sink below the water, but there was no pool supervisor in attendance. He sank to the bottom of the pool and was unnoticed for 10 minutes before a fellow passenger dived down and brought him to the surface. Mr Oh could not be revived.

The U.K. Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997 require that risk assessments be completed for activities and operations on board U.K. registered ships. However, at the time of the accident, no formal documented risk assessment for swimming pool usage had been completed by P&O Cruises Australia.

Ashore, the U.K. Health and Safety Executive’s guidance details when risk assessments should be carried out and factors to consider when deciding whether constant poolside supervision is necessary. It states that constant poolside supervision by lifeguards provides the best assurance of pool users’ safety, but it does recognize a balance between cost and risk.

The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) released its report into Mr Oh’s death this week stating that a dedicated swimming pool attendant can provide constant supervision, enabling an emergency response to be initiated at the earliest opportunity and so prevent a passenger drowning. It’s not the first time that MAIB has voiced such a recommendation.

The Pacific Dawn report is available here.

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