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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Police say they may never know what caused 7-year-old Sacir Mehanovic, of West Valley City, to drown at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center on Sunday.
Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Corbett Ford said Sacir was in about 6 feet of water and hadn’t been doing anything out of the ordinary before being discovered by another swimmer who alerted a lifeguard. Despite their best efforts, the boy couldn’t be revived.
The pool was packed Sunday. Seven hundred people went in and out of the center through the course of the day, and 20 lifeguards were on duty. Officials say when there are so many eyes, it can be easy to get a false sense of security.
“I think we get that comfort, feeling of comfort,” Unified Fire Department spokesman Desmond Johnson said. “There’s a lot of people here, somebody will notice, somebody will see something.”
But no one saw Sacir was in trouble until it was too late.
“We often think we’ll hear a scream, or we’ll see thrashing in the water or something dramatic,” Johnson said. "A child will take a gulp of water. There's no scream. They'll slip under the water quietly and won't come back out."
Lifeguards at the recreation center train year-round, which includes spotting shadows or silhouettes at the bottom of the pool.
“So they’re kind of knowing to not look for the obvious, not floating at the surface, not flailing,” said Lyse Durrant, aquatic director for the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center.
I think we get that comfort, feeling of comfort. There's a lot of people here, somebody will notice, somebody will see something.
–Desmond Johnson, UFD
Lifeguards watch and scan assigned zones, and those zones overlap.
“We need all the eyes that we can get,” Durrant said. “Parents need to be extra vigilant when they bring their kids to the pool, and it only takes 2 inches.”
Durrant says each recreation center has its own regulations to determine how many lifeguards are on duty.
Pool rules at her facility require parents stay in the water with kids ages 5 and under. Parents must be on deck with kids between 6 and 8 years old.
Durrant says if a child can’t swim or is just learning, parents should always be in the water with them, regardless of age.
“You need to know what your child’s swimming ability is,” she said. “It can happen to anyone at any time.”