DUTCH WONDERLAND Family Entertainment Complex
2249 Lincoln Highway East
Lancaster, PA 17602
On Tuesday June 16, 2009 an incident occurred in the water area that needs your immediate attention. My husband accompanied the children to the top of the equipment with the water slides. I saw that there were lifeguards at every corner, and two at the bottom of this particular slide. As I was about 10 feet from the slide, I saw my son coming down. He had lost his balance and is on his back, head first landing in the water with his entire face under. He struggled to get up, but was knocked down by the current again, this time face first. I noticed the two life guards watching, but not interrupting their conversation to move. I ran as quickly as I could to his aid. By the time I had reached him, he had gone under 5 times in a matter of seconds. After I scoop him up and begin consoling him, the lifeguards continued to stand utterly still and stare at us, without saying a word to me.
I was disappointed with the lack of action by your lifeguards. Lifeguards need to MOVE. They need to react quickly. This does not happen by watching the waters. Lifeguards must be trained regularly in simulated exercises. The once a year training for certification is no where near enough. I was very impressed with the number of lifeguards that were on duty, especially since the water area was not very crowded. However, good staffing doesn’t save lives, and I shudder to think what may have happened if I had been unable to reach my son. How long would it have taken them to help him? Would it have been soon enough? The water was frigid and debilitating. Would his muscles continue to allow him to struggle and draw attention? It only takes a tiny bit of water and a second to drown. Could my son have drowned today? Please, train your lifeguards. Simulate drowning, slips, etc.
My son was clearly too small to go down this particular water slide. Dutch Wonderland has done a beautiful job making it easy to see which kids can go on which rides. The color coding is a perfect visual for little ones. At every ride in the park (with the exception of this water area) there are signs at the entrance. Other ride attendants had no problem letting us know he was too small to ride, even though he was right at the brink of the next level. With three separate slides, one of these is clearly acceptable for “aquamarines,” whereas the other two bigger slides are obviously not. I think the water slide attendants need to utilize this wonderful tool as well. Had this lifeguard had the measuring stick, or the little sign or even verbally let my husband know this slide was not suitable for little ones, the situation could have been avoided. Perhaps allowing “aquamarines” to go down on the laps of a responsible rider would help to avoid this situation in the future. If the slide is too large for people under a certain size to navigate successfully, it should have a size limitation clearly posted and enforced by the staff. Water slides are not something that people have an everyday familiarity with, and advising that people under a certain size or age cannot use it safely is important.