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After Drowning Death, Lifeguards Share Tips

Following the accidental drowning of four-year-old Vicente Cardenas at Glenview’s Roosevelt Pool June 15, local guards share safety tips. Roosevelt Pool staff are still recovering from the tragedy, Park District Executive Director Chuck Balling told Patch

Zach Hester has been a lifeguard with the Village of Glencoe for six years but says he has never encountered anything close .

The recent Northern Illinois University graduate works a six-hour shift that incorporates practice sessions to make sure he and the rest of his staff stay sharp and focused. Hester has seen bad lacerations and broken bones in his six summers patrolling the waters.

“It’s a very serious job and we took the position knowing we are going to be in life and death situations,” Hester said. “We pride ourselves on having a vigilant staff. We’re concerned for our patrons, so that is why we take all the steps necessary to ensure their safety.”

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If he sees a youngster like Vicente, Hester, 22, says he does keep an eye on that individual. “If they are not a good swimmer, we don’t want them going in past their knees,” he said.

Roosevelt pool staff shaken

At Roosevelt Pool, the staff is still trying to come to grips with the tragedy, said Chuck Balling, the Glenview Park District’s executive director.

“This has been very traumatic on all of our employees specifically the lifeguards at Roosevelt and we want to make sure that we continue to give them the support they need going forward,” he said.

In addition to sharing support for the Cardenas family, Glenview readers have also reached out with messages for the involved guards.

"These lifeguards will be traumatized for a very long time, though they are not responsible for this tragedy," wrote Patch reader Sharon. "My heart goes out to them as much as it does to this young boy's family.

Safety first

In Lake Forest, Superintendent of Special Facilities Jeff Wait said lifeguards are given training that includes CPR and first aid.

“It’s difficult to prepare them for everything, but we give them the skills to help identify potential risk, hazards and other problems,” Wait said. “We try to teach them to be proactive.”

Wait added the lifeguards are trained to keep an eye on someone who might be “struggling” yet at the same time, continue to scan everyone in the water.

 In light of Glenview’s recent tragedy, Wait offered the following tips:

  • Lifeguards are not there to watch individual patrons, they are there to identify possible emergencies and then respond. “As a parent I know it is my responsibility to watch my children, not the lifeguard’s.”

  • Beachgoers have to be cognizant of waves, undertow and the bottom.

  • Water is still very cold at this time of year and children can suffer from hypothermia very easily. Parents or guardians need to watch for signs including uncontrollable shivering, blue lips and slurred speech.

Drowning doesn't look like drowning

And, something every parent should read before heading to the pool or beach with their little one, water safety expert Mario Vittone offered this set of drowning warning signs:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs – Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.

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