SHREVEPORT, La. – The CEO of the water park where a child was found face-down in a pool Thursday evening said lifeguards followed protocol as they tried to save the boy’s life.
According to the Caddo Parish Coroner, Kendall Williams, 13, died Thursday evening at Willis-Knighton South Medical Center.
First responders were dispatched around 5:15 p.m. to Splash Kingdom on W. 70th Street, where authorities say Williams was visiting with his family from El Dorado, Ark.
Splash Kingdom, Inc. owns five water parks. The Shreveport location is the company’s only park in Louisiana. The other four parks are in Texas.
Splash Kingdom CEO Johnny Blevins, who is based in Texas, was at the Shreveport location Friday as it opened on time.
Blevins provided a written statement regarding Williams’ death:
“Our prayers are with this precious family as well as our first responders and leadership team at Splash Kingdom Shreveport, during this very difficult time.
Our initial investigation into this incident reveals that the water safety team responded to our guest within seconds and provided appropriate care while awaiting EMS. Responding police officers noted guest comments, praising the actions of our lifeguard team.
It is our understanding that an autopsy will be completed to aid in determining the cause of this tragic death.
Splash Kingdom is committed to maintaining the highest standards in water safety for all of our guests.
We continue to pray for this family during their time of great loss.”
3 Investigates visited Splash Kingdom and followed up with Blevins on his statement. While he declined to appear on camera, he answered several questions about the circumstances surrounding Thursday’s incident and the park’s safety protocol.
Blevins said Williams was found in the Activity Pool. According to Splash Kingdom’s website, the Activity Pool has varying depths up to 10 feet.
Blevins said lifeguards at Splash Kingdom adhere to a policy known as the “10-20 zone of protection.” The policy dictates that lifeguards must be able to see everything within their designated zone of the park within 10 seconds and respond to it within 20. If the park does not have adequate staff to adhere to the policy, it will close attractions.
Blevins told 3 Investigates that lifeguards followed all safety protocols when they attempted to administer aid to Williams. He said the lifeguard closest to Williams had eyes on the teen in the seconds before he was found face-down, and was able to respond within seconds. Blevins said “five or six” lifeguards administered aid, using oxygen and an AED.
At the time of the incident, Blevins said lifeguards reported the water was clear and uncrowded.
3 Investigates searched public records for background information on Splash Kingdom. No complaints have been filed against the company with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A search of Caddo Parish court records revealed three lawsuits against the company regarding injuries. Two were dismissed. A third, filed in 2010 after a child collided with a wall after coming down a water slide, settled in 2011. In that case, records show a lifeguard admitted that a control pump was not working.
There are no federal or state agencies that directly oversee water parks in Louisiana, though water parks must pass various inspections from the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Health in order to operate.
Blevins told 3 Investigates that Splash Kingdom pays a private company to train life guards, establish safety protocol and perform audits. The Florida-based Jeff Ellis & Associates, Inc. describes itself on its website as, “an international aquatic safety and risk management consulting firm dedicated to the prevention and elimination of drowning.”
According to Blevins, the firm conducts unannounced safety audits by sending auditors to the park that pose as ordinary guests. Blevins said Splash Kingdom’s Shreveport location has undergone two such audits this year. He said one audit said the park “meets expectations,” and the other said the park “exceeds expectations.”
3 Investigates called Jeff Ellis & Associates to verify the information from Blevins, but has not heard back.
Blevins said he and his staff are cooperating with investigators looking into Williams’ death.
An autopsy is being performed on Williams at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport.