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Report: Sun Prairie student took off life jacket prior to near drowning

Published On: Mar 20 2013 01:11:40 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 22 2013 02:51:14 PM CDT

A report on the near-drowning of a seventh-grader at Sun Prairie High School Wednesday was released Friday, showing he took off his life jacket immediately prior to the incident.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services report showed life jackets were not required during the Sun Prairie High School swimming lessons, though students could wear them if they chose. The 13-year-old boy who was found unresponsive in the pool during lessons this week had taken his off prior to the incident, according to the report.

The report also described the student as a “weak swimmer.”

Sun Prairie police and emergency responders were called to the high school at 888 Grove St. at 8:56 a.m. for a report of an unresponsive 13-year-old boy.

Police said the Patrick Marsh Middle School student, one of 130 students bused to the school, was attending a swimming lesson as part of a physical education program.

Near the end of the class period, Eric Breidel, the high school pool manager and a certified lifeguard, rescued the boy from the bottom of the pool, according to the school district.

A district spokeswoman said the pool manager and the physical education staff from Patrick Marsh Middle School responded quickly to clear the pool and get the student to the pool deck to safety. The boy was breathing but not responsive, according to police.

The boy was taken to a Sun Prairie hospital and then transported to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison where he was admitted to the UW Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He's listed in critical but stable condition.

Police said there are no indications the incident is criminal in nature.

There were six adults at the pool, including three lifeguards supervising.

Jennifer Apodaca, the district's crisis coordinator, said the school followed rules.

Breidel cited a Wisconsin Department of Health and Safety code that requires two lifeguards for the about 4,500 square-foot Sun Prairie pool. Breidel said the three lifeguards for the class were more than required by law, and he said the quick recognition and response time is partly what helped him save the student.

Apodaca said she reached out and offered support to the witnesses as well as the entire student body and district families.

"We met with students who were closely involved and talked with students who may have had an emotional reaction or response and needed to talk to someone with somebody, and our student services personnel were there to help them," Apodaca said.
District-wide, classes went on as scheduled, except an afternoon swim class was canceled.

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