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New Berlin Girl Pulled from Brookfield Pool Has Died

An 8-year-old girl found unconscious and unresponsive in Wirth Aquatic Center died Wednesday at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, according to the Waukesha County Medical Examiner's office.

An 8-year-old New Berlin girl pulled from Brookfield's Wirth Pool while on a summer field trip has died, according to the Waukesha County Medical Examiner's office.

The girl, whose identity was not released, died at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, where she has remained from a 4-foot-deep area of the pool.

She was visiting Wirth pool with about 75 other youth in New Berlin's Summer Playground program, which travels to Wirth every Tuesday afternoon to swim.

Lifeguards and a North Shore emergency medical technician who was swimming at Wirth that afternoon tried to revive her with CPR and a defibrillator before Brookfield paramedics arrived and took over, eventually taking her to Children's Hospital.

New Berlin's group did not return to Wirth this week and also will not be there July 17, and is evaluating how to handle its swim programming for the rest of the summer, New Berlin Park and Recreation Director Mark Schroeder told Patch Thursday morning, at which time he was not aware of the girl's death. He could not be immediately reached late Thursday.

Mayor offers 'heartfelt sympathy'

Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto and Brookfield Park and Recreation Director Bill Kolstad expressed condolences to the family and all involved.

"This was a tragic accident and our heartfelt sympathy and condolences go to the family," Ponto said. "All of us here at City Hall have had this young girl and her family in all of our hearts and prayers."

Kolstad said: "All of us are deeply saddened by the loss. There is nobody who was involved in this incident who hasn’t been emotionally impacted. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family."

Why the girl, who was on her first park and recreation trip to Wirth Park, fell unconscious in the pool was unknown. Police said they were still investigating. The medical examiner's office conducted an autopsy Thursday but the exact cause of death was not available.

Both Kolstad and Schroeder, in his earlier interview Thursday, each said there was proper supervision by their respective pool and park and recreation staff.

"We haven’t been provided any information by the police department that would lead us to conclude that there have been issues with types of procedures," Kolstad said. "We’re extreme proud of our aquatic staff and their response to the tragedy."

Counselors were made available to lifeguards who Kolstad said decided they wanted to return to their chairs and posts the next day, which was the extremely hot Fourth of July holiday.

Directors: proper supervision provided

Schroeder said there were 77 youth on the field trip and 12 park and recreation staff members, for a ratio of about 6 to 1.

"We did the things that we normally would do," he said. "We had the normal number of chaperones and the typical number of campers or kids from the playground that were there.

"We make sure that they’re safely from the bus into the pool environment and our people are both in the water on the deck, wherever the kids may be at that particular event. So there was nothing different from our perspective," Schroeder said.

"We certainly are looking at everything we did and is there a way to improve," he said. "I continue to pride ourselves with what we do for a safety program but we wouldn't be doing our due dilligence if we weren't reviewing things."

Schroeder said his department has taken field trips to Wirth Park for many years and his staff "have always thought very highly of that (Brookfield) department and the way they do things."

Parents of other children enrolled in the New Berlin summer program "have been wonderful," Schroeder said. They have expressed concern for the girl's family and staff and have told staff they continue to feel safe bringing their children to the program.

"It’s certainly most traumatic for the family of the young girl," Schroeder said, but added: "Our staff has taken it hard because they get to know all of their kids on a pretty good basis throughout the summer."

The group has not gone swimming, however, and it is unknown if it will resume Wirth Park trips or several other planned trips yet this summer to places such as Country Springs Water Park.

Scott Berg July 14, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Dick - Had there been less media discussion the city would have been accused of a coverup or some other bizarre thing. The intense interest in this topic by so many people who don't even know the family shows that people show compassion, it is news, that there is a public interest, and that the free press has balanced discretion with public comment. There are no easy answers here.
Rena July 15, 2012 at 04:42 AM
This little girl was a close family friend. She will forever be missed. The "what if's" are behind us. This was a horrible accident. As a city and community we need to move forward and take whatever precautions are needed to prevent this situation from recurring. As a community, this family needs our prayers through this very difficult time.
sophia knox July 15, 2012 at 03:30 PM
i go to new berlin park and reck and she was a friend of mine. we are all sad about her and we will have her in our prayers.
DICK STEINBERG July 15, 2012 at 10:57 PM
to be clear, the bad publicity as expressed by the press, makes us look like we have no security measures to protect the swimmers. of course, the child is the sad event.
#Littledog July 19, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Glad the doctor spoke up. All the speculation about, "well, she must have had an asthma attack, she must have bonked her head and went under water unconscious," are all events which could have been resolved (or at least she'd have a fighting chance) if the response time was quicker. The first time someone realized there was a problem was when she was floating. A little too late. I'm not faulting the staff or life guards-I don't think a 6:1 ratio is adequate supervision for children in such a large, crowded pool. There also need to be more lifeguards. I feel so much safer swimming at Hoyt Pool in Tosa because there are lifeguards about every 3 feet! The pool is much smaller and they limit their capacity before it gets over-crowded. The kids have to pass a swimming test to swim in 4 feet or deeper; they are given a password they have to tell the lifeguards every time they go back to the pool. Sometimes kids crack the password code (to give to their friends who might not have passed the swim test) and then the lifeguards re-test all the kids all over again. Hoyt also has a rule where there must be 1 caregiver for every 4 kids (not 6!) Accidents do happen, but lessons can be learned from such a tragic death. I know this can happen anywhere, but as a mom, I've never felt very comfortable at Wirth pool.

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