Thursday, Sept. 4, 1997 | 9:50 a.m.
Metro Police have found nothing warranting criminal charges after reviewing the rescue of a 9-year-old girl who died a week after her unconscious body was pulled from the wave pool at the Wet 'n Wild water park.
The police report on the Aug. 18 tragedy stated that lifeguards responded immediately upon discovering Thalia Jazmin Salomon floating face down in about four feet of water, and were in no way negligent in life-saving efforts.
The assessment is in stark contrast to statements made to the SUN by several water park guests.
The witnesses said lifeguards took several minutes to get Salomon out of the water, gave rescue breaths without opening the child's airway and tried only once to get water out of the girl's bloated abdomen.
Sandie Durgin, supervisor of Metro's abuse and neglect detail, which investigated the drowning, said it is not uncommon for witnesses to give exaggerated accounts when a tragedy has happened. She offered a reminder that lifeguards "are not miracle workers."
"Hundreds of people drop their children off at places and expect someone else to supervise them," Durgin said. "Is it a crime that a lifeguard can't save someone's life? We don't prosecute paramedics when they can't save someone's life."
The issue of Salomon's safety lies not with the lifeguards, Durgin said, but with the girl's parents.
Salomon had gone to the water park with her family for her father's company picnic. Durgin said the girl had been riding on a raft when the accident happened.
The pool was packed with people playing in the computer-generated 1- to 2-foot waves, according to witnesses. Wet 'n Wild has declined to release its attendance figures.
Three lifeguards were involved with getting the girl out of the water and attempting to revive her before paramedics took over and transported her to Columbia Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where she died Aug. 25.
"Let's talk about who's really responsible," Durgin said. "Who took her (to Wet 'n Wild)? Her father was there, he was observing her in the water, he gave her instructions when she got on the raft, and he knew she didn't know how to swim."
But what sounds like an issue of parental neglect would never make it to court, Durgin said.
"This community does not have an appetite for prosecuting a parent who has lost a child," she said. "When cases like this get submitted to the (district attorney's) office ... nothing happens.
"We've had parents leave their kids in hot cars and drop their kids off at casinos. We do everything we can for prevention, telling parents not to let their kids get out of their supervision, but it happens every day and it's not appropriate."
Three-month-old Haylie Kay Marie Bonham died in a hot car in June 1996 after being left in the back seat for hours while her mother went to work.
District Attorney Stewart Bell concluded that there was no basis for criminal charges because "the child's whereabouts simply slipped the mind of a busy mother" who had dropped off her two older children before getting to work where she was to conduct a quarterly training seminar.
Bell also found no reason to charge LeRoy Iverson, 57, whose daughter was raped and murdered in a women's restroom during a gambling trip to a Primm hotel-casino during Memorial Day weekend this year.
Iverson, 57, told authorities that he had left his 7-year-old daughter, Sherrice, alone while he went to the bathroom, and alerted security when he came out and found her missing. A hotel maid found the body.
Hours before Sherrice was killed, security guards had warned her family three times to keep an eye on the child after finding her wandering alone in the casino while her father gambled.
"Personally, I very much wish we would be less tolerant of neglectful acts by parents," Durgin said. "We have good laws in this state. The law is good. What we need is a change in attitude. The problem is that people feel sorry for the survivors because the child is gone."