Woman Dies in Pool After Boy Reports Her Drowning to Lifeguard Who Said She Was On a Break

It's "their job to save lives and they didn't do that," boy's mother says.

July 2, 2011, 12:27 PM

July 2, 2011 — -- A 9-year-old boy immediately told lifeguards at a Fall River, Mass., pool that a woman had gone underwater and not come up, but nothing was done and it was more than two days before her body was found.

According to the boy's mother, one of the lifeguards said she was on her break.

The body of Marie Joseph was not discovered at the bottom of the public swimming pool in Fall River until Tuesday night, two and a half days later.

On Monday, children swam in the pool unaware that her body was at the bottom.

Candela Matta was at the 12-foot-deep Vietnam Veterans Swimming Pool with the 36-year-old Joseph and a group of people Sunday. Matta told The Associated Press that some friends even waited for Joseph at the pool and a nearby park until Sunday evening.

Her boyfriend, who told the AP that Joseph knew how to swim, said he thought she wanted to be by herself after she did not answer or return his phone calls.

According to law enforcement, Joseph slid down the pool's water slide with a neighbor's 9-year-old son.

"Marie unexpectedly slid down the slide, landing on top of him," Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine said Wednesday. Racine said Joseph went under the water and did not surface.

Autopsy results released from the Bristol County District Attorney's office today say that Joseph accidentally drowned.

Police said the boy notified two lifeguards separately immediately after the incident, around 2 p.m. Sunday, but no action was taken. Investigators are looking at surveillance video.

The boy's mother, Danyelle Hunt, 30, said in an interview Friday that her son keeps saying he wishes he were bigger so he could have saved the woman, according to the Boston Globe.

"He's sad because he saw the last moments of Marie's life, and when he tried to do something, nobody listened,'' Hunt said.

Hunt said her son went down a slide at the pool in front of Joseph, and Joseph grazed him on the head as she splashed down from the slide, according to the Boston Globe.

Joseph attempted to apologize, but couldn't because she started sinking, according to the boy. He tried to grab her, but Joseph had already sunk to the bottom of the pool.

The boy immediately went to a lifeguard, who told him she was on break, Hunt said. He went to another lifeguard, who told him that they were going to do a pool check "in a minute.''

Joseph, a mother of five with the words "Family" and "First" tattooed on her wrists, was found Tuesday evening by passersby.

"He's just really sad right now,'' Hunt said of her son. "He keeps saying he wishes he was bigger. They will never ever go again to a pool around here. I will put a pool in this little cement area here; if they're hot they can play here. Those lifeguards, that's their job to save lives and they didn't do that.''

Although the pool was open to the public, Fall River Mayor William Flanagan said its permit had expired Dec. 31. Two health inspectors visited the pool Monday, Flanagan said, and one of them returned Tuesday and reported that the water was cloudy.

Cloudy Water Played 'Major Role'

B.J. Fisher, head of the American Lifeguard Association, told ABC News today that cloudy water likely played a "major role" in the body's apparently going unnoticed.

Fisher said cloudy water was a problem facing lots of pools during the summer because the water gets dirty when patrons enter it and at times the filtration system may be broken.

"The health department was out there," Fisher told ABC News today. "They even spoke about the cloudiness of the water."

Fisher, who said he knew of at least two incidents in which a body went unnoticed at the bottom of a pool, said lifeguards should always be able to see the main drain cover.

In Fall River, Flanagan placed two inspectors on administrative leave and the staff at the pool were suspended.

Twenty-four of the state's deep-water pools were closed until further notice.

What to Look for in Your Pool's Lifeguards

As you head to the pool this holiday weekend, take note of the lifeguards there to protect you and your loved ones:

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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