Massachusetts Woman Dead in Public Pool for Two Days

Body apparently overlooked by swimmers and health inspectors.

ByABC News
June 30, 2011, 1:12 PM

June 30, 2011— -- The body of a Massachusetts woman went unnoticed for two days in a Fall River public swimming pool, which remained open to the public and was even visited by health inspectors, generating outrage and calls for an investigation.

Marie Joseph, 36, was found Tuesday evening by a passerby, two days after she experienced an apparent accident on the water slide at the 12-foot-deep, state-run Vietnam Veterans Swimming Pool, officials said.

Police said Joseph took her neighbor's son, 9, to the pool Sunday afternoon.

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

Police said the boy notified lifeguards immediately after the incident, around 2 p.m. Sunday, but no action was taken.

B.J. Fisher, director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association, said lifeguards should never ignore warnings.

"We teach our lifeguards to act like the 911 system," Fisher said. "If you talk to them, they should never question you."

William Flanagan, mayor of Fall River, called Joseph's death "tragic" and said he was demanding an investigation.

"It has come to my attention that health inspectors from the city visited the pool on Monday and Tuesday and inspected the facilities. I have immediately placed those inspectors on administrative leave," he said, adding the city plans to offer assistance to the state Department of Recreation and Conservation, which manages the pools and is conducting the investigation.

A photographer for the Herald News visited the pool Tuesday before Joseph's body was discovered and took a photograph of the crowded pool, which only recently opened for the summer.

Police said it was unclear how many people, if any, had seen Joseph's body in the pool before it was recovered late Tuesday evening. Her body is being autopsied to determine cause of death.

All 30 of Massachusetts' deep-water pools will be closed until further notice.