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Originally published September 9, 2013 at 4:31 PM | Page modified September 10, 2013 at 6:58 AM

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Editorial: Hotel-pool death of Tesfaye Deboch must force change

A man’s tragic death in a hotel-swimming pool raises basic issues of public health and safety,

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE June drowning death of a 27-year-old-man in a downtown Seattle hotel-swimming pool emphasizes the need to update and change public health and safety procedures.

The Seattle Fire Department’s (SFD) own report on the hotel-pool drowning is a contradiction of sorts. Quick response to an emergency call for help was followed by a less than aggressive search for the reported victim.

Indisputably brave first responders who do indeed run into burning buildings never entered the water. Erroneous assumptions were made about water clarity and the ability to know what was visible beneath the surface.

Skilled water-rescue personnel trained for all manner of open-water hazards were called back en route to the first alarm, according to the SFD report.

Chief Gregory Dean said the department will re-examine its training regimes and expectations.

A curious amount of confusion surrounded where the missing person might be. Had he left the pool area? Officials looked everywhere, except inside the pool.

The body of the Washington State University graduate student was eventually located in the pool by a retired firefighter from Texas caught up in helping the young man’s frantic companions.

Hotel guests had resumed use of the pool before the body was eventually discovered and removed from the pool, described by the SFD report as increasingly murky. Tesfaye Girma Deboch was found in the pool approximately one hour and 45 minutes after the first 911 call, according to the SFD report.

The pool at the Quality Inn & Suites Seattle Center remains closed since a July 10 inspection by Public Health — Seattle & King County after the department learned of the drowning.

In May the pool had been briefly closed and then reopened after issues arising from a routine inspection were corrected.

Public-health officials are contemplating putting the results of pool inspections online, the way restaurant health reports have been available for more than a decade.

The public not only wants to know, but the health department also believes it might motivate compliance with pool health and safety regulations.

Yes, put the information online. Hotel and motel patrons have every right to know what kind of funky, fetid mess they might be getting into.

Maintaining pools is a full-time commitment for those who offer the amenity. Cleanliness and chemical balances take work and attention to keep within the law and safe health standards. The national literature on recreational-water illness is extensive.

A young man with a bright future perished. Elements of the tragedy can and must be addressed.


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