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Lifeguards get grief counseling after 7-year-old’s drowning

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-08 00:06:16-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah -- Grief counseling took place at Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Monday night as lifeguards try to cope with the death of a 7-year-old boy.

Sacir Mehanovic drowned in the pool on Sunday while 18 lifeguards were on duty. Cottonwood Heights Police are ruling it a terrible accident.

"All the lifeguards working yesterday will not be asked to come back until they feel comfortable, we'll evaluate that tonight," said Mike Peterson, director of the center.

Every employee who works at the Cottonwood Heights recreation center was welcome to participate in Monday night’s grief counseling.

Counselor Mary Beth Osoro was once a lifeguard herself.

"A lot of them are experiencing a lot of fear and a lot of sadness. I think questions about what other people are going to think about them or how the community is going to think of them and what this means for their job as they move forward," Osoro said. "I'm sure some can come back right away and some may need a little bit more time."

According to the recreation center, the life guards are constantly rotating, making sure 14 guards are always watching the pool, while four are taking a break.

"We have zone coverage so every lifeguard's area covers somebody else's lifeguard area so we always have two or three sets of eyes on any one particular area," said Lyse Durrant, aquatics director.

The pool has a total of 120 guards, varying in age from 15 to 24. Recreation center officials say all lifeguards must be Red Cross certified, which requires 30 hours of training, and that's just the beginning.

"We do weekly in-service training, we do monthly in-service training, it's ongoing and all the time," Durrant said.

The pool has a maximum capacity of 1,500 people. There is no legal requirement when it comes to number of lifeguards on duty.

Recreation center officials say they don't believe having more guards would have prevented Sunday's drowning, but they are conducting their own internal investigation.

"With any incident we always take the reports and see if there is anything we could have done different or anything we could have done better and we'll make the appropriate changes if they are necessary," Durrant said.
Police say there a couple questions regarding this case that may never be answered, like how did the boy end up submerged.

There are reports that Sacir fell in and possibly hit his head, but police say there is no physical evidence to support that.

Another question is how long was he under water? Police say they may never know.

As for response times, the Unified Fire Authority said five minutes, but that's an unofficial time. FOX 13 requested the 911 call to get the exact figure. Witnesses at the pool have said it was as high as 15 minutes.