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Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Drownings
Brien Roche

On Monday,

September 7, 2020 a teenager drowned in the Rappahannock River.  The incident occurred in Stafford County.  The young man was found on Wednesday morning, September 9, 2020.  He was a 15 year-old who had gone under at 4:20 p.m.  He was swimming at Falmouth Beach.  

Drone and dive teams took part in the search.  Also there were fire and rescue personnel involved over the course of two days.  On Wednesday, September 9, 2020 the crews found the body in the river at the Chatham Bridge.  The young man was identified as Hasnain Ghafoor of Manassas.

Drowning is a fact that owners and those who manage swimming pools must be fully aware of. Those who own and manage pools, to the extent that they have safety personnel on site, need to be fully prepared. Being prepared includes being informed of what is sometimes called the Instinctive Drowning Response. Many people wrongly believe that a drowning swimmer will be thrashing in the water. People see this as an attempt to stay afloat. That is not always the case.

Typical Behavior in Drownings

  • Drowning people are not able to call out for help. Their respiratory system is too busy trying to ingest air.
  • To the extent that the drowning person’s mouth is above the surface of the water, they are exhaling and inhaling. They are doing this as quickly as possible before their mouth sinks below the surface of the water.
  • A drowning person instinctively extends the arms to the side. The intent is to press down on the water’s surface in order to try to stay afloat.  That would prevent someone from waving for aid.
  • Most drowning people remain upright in the water and are unable to kick.

These are very subtle signs of drowning. They are things that lifeguards and other attendants need to be aware of in order to best serve patrons.

Factors To Consider In Drownings

In analyzing swimming pool injuries there are a number of factors to consider. State and local codes must be analyzed carefully to determine any and all requirements that may exist as far as:

  1. Fencing.
  2. The nature and characteristics of any gates.
  3. Any required life saving devices.
  4. The need for and qualifications of life guards.
  5. Pool maintenance standards as far as water level, water clarity, condition of deck, etc.
  6. Design requirements for the pool such as depth markers, presence of protruding objects, use and location of diving boards or slides.

To the extent that either state or local codes do not cover these issues then there may be a need for expert testimony to establish the standard of care. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Diving Accidents

Diving accidents in swimming pools and other facilities have decreased dramatically over the years. This decrease is due to the enhanced awareness of the dangers of diving. Many pool owners have removed their diving boards.

General theories of liability may be premised on lack of depth markings, failure to construct or install the pool according to plans, improper matching of a diving board with a pool of suitable depth and absence of proper signs. In addition lack of lifeguards, inadequate lighting, and negligent rescue may be bases for liability.

Some states have passed legislation that requires minimum diving depth in a variety of different pools.

Some standards that exist in the field are published by the National Spa and Pool Institute. In addition the NCAA and the Federation of International Amateur Swimming (FINA) have established certain standards for pools that allow diving.

Most backyard pools are no more than 20 feet by 40 feet. With a diving board in the deep end a tall person can easily strike bottom if not wary of the danger. Add to that the presence of liquor. Backyard pools can become places of danger.

Drownings From Rip Tides

Drownings from rip tides is a huge problem in many beaches across the U.S.  The rip tide effect is caused by a break in sandbars that are offshore. The break allows water that is washed on the shore side of the sandbar to funnel through that break. The break between two adjacent sandbars creates a suction effect drawing the swimmer out away from the shore.

Some signs of rip tides are an area of water in the surf that has a different color from the surrounding water. Also be on the lookout for irregularity in the incoming pattern of waves. In addition the movement of seaweed or debris that is moving out through the surf may suggest a rip tide.

If caught in a rip tide, which is different from an undertow, the best defense is to swim slowly parallel to the shore. In addition you can allow the rip tide to carry you out until it loses its momentum.  It will lose its momentum. Once it does you can swim back to the shore away from the rip tide area.

An undertow is generated by a drop off in depth of the water. This causes receding waves to fall into the deeper area created by the changing depth. This results in the swimmer being pulled under.

See also the pages within this site dealing with premises liability.
For more information on drownings see the pages on Wikipedia. Call, or contact us for a free consult.


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Brien Roche

Brien A. Roche has been an attorney since 1976. Mr. Roche is admitted to practice in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland. In addition to his busy law practice, Mr. Roche is also a published author of several books & articles relating to the practice of law.

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