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Friday, July 1, 2011

Drowning Victim’s Body In Pool For Three Days Before Anyone Noticed

Marie Joseph, 36, holding a family friend's daughter, in the public swimming pool at Lafayette Park in Fall River, Mass. Joseph's body was found floating in the pool late Tuesday. (AP)

Marie Joseph, 36, holding a family friend's daughter, in the public swimming pool at Lafayette Park in Fall River, Mass. Joseph's body was found floating in the pool late Tuesday. (AP)

Here & Now Guest:

  • Mike Bello, Boston Globe deputy city editor


Fall River, MA –  The public swimming pool where a woman’s body may have gone unnoticed by lifeguards, health inspectors and swimmers for more than two days had an expired permit.

Investigators were poring over surveillance video and conducting interviews as they tried to figure out what happened to 36-year-old Marie Joseph. The state medical examiner completed an autopsy, but the findings haven’t been made public.

“The facts appear to indicate that a woman was in the water for a number of days and not noticed by staff, patrons or other inspections that may have taken place,” State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan, whose department oversees state-run pools, said Thursday.

He said he found the possibility disturbing and “a breakdown systematically somewhere.” Fall River Mayor William

Flanagan said the pool’s permit had expired on Dec. 31.

Joseph had gone to Veterans Memorial Pool on Sunday with a group of friends. Her body was found Tuesday night, when youngsters jumped over a fence for a clandestine swim, police said.

Authorities said she had not been reported missing. Her friends said they thought she simply walked away from the pool. Her boyfriend’s calls went unreturned, but he thought she wanted to be alone.

After the discovery, Massachusetts officials closed 24 state-run deep-water swimming pools and suspended staff at the Fall River pool. Two Fall River inspectors also were placed on paid leave.

Joseph was a native of Haiti and had five children, though only an adult son lived with her, friends said. She worked as a housekeeper at a hotel in Newport, R.I. Her boyfriend said she could swim.

Her friend Veronica Reis, 21, said she had driven Joseph to the pool on Sunday.

At some point, Joseph and a 9-year-old boy in the group went into the pool from a slide, Reis said. After they splashed into the water, the boy noticed that Joseph hadn’t come back up, Reis said.

“He got up to the water and went to go tell the lifeguard,” said Reis, who talked the 9-year-old afterward. “The lifeguard said he was going to do a pool check. … They never did that. They never did anything.”

Candela Matta, also at the pool with Joseph, said friends initially thought she simply had left. She said some of the friends waited for Joseph at the pool and a nearby park until 7 p.m. Sunday.

Investigators have spoken to the 9-year-old boy and the lifeguards who were on duty, said Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for Bristol County District Country Sam Sutter.

Two health inspectors visited the pool on Monday, and one of them returned Tuesday, Mayor Flanagan said Thursday.

“The only noteworthy thing in the report listed the clarity (of the water) as cloudy,” Flanagan said.

Tasha Stokes, 28, said she visited the pool on Monday and noticed that the deep end of the pool was white and closed to swimmers.

“It was white. We went swimming in that water. There were little kids drinking that water,” said Stokes. “I’m shocked. I was swimming in water with a dead person. I think I have a lawsuit on my hands.”

The Fall River pool is 12 feet deep and employs 12 staffers, six of whom are lifeguards and are certified by the Red Cross.

Flanagan said the city would cooperate with a state investigation being conducted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which runs the pool.

During his monthly radio show on WTKK-FM, Gov. Deval Patrick called the case terrible and bizarre and expressed his condolences to the family. He said he ordered an investigation into DCR procedures, adding that he hoped it would be concluded in time for the busy holiday weekend.

Dr. Lauren Smith, state public health medical director, said it’s unlikely that a body in the pool would create a health risk, because the chlorine in the water would keep it safe for human contact.

“I want to reassure the public (that) as disturbing as it is to you, there are no health risks associated with this,” she said.
Herbert Callwood, Joseph’s boyfriend of eight years, said that when his girlfriend didn’t return his calls earlier this week, he just thought she felt like being alone.

Callwood, 45, said he heard about Joseph’s death on the news.

“It’s too much bear. I just want to know what happened,” Callwood said. “And why did someone leave her like that?”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Apedersen568

    Maybe this unfortunate woman is a symbol of American society.

  • CatT

    wow, all I can say is WOW.When I was a lifeguard, if you couldn’t see the bottom of the entire pool, nobody was allowed in the water.
    And if the pool closed and someone’s belongings were still there, HUGE deal.
    Have the rules really changed?  WOW!

  • Rick Evans

    CatT — “wow, all I can say is WOW.When I was a lifeguard, if you couldn’t see
    the bottom of the entire pool, nobody was allowed in the water”

    When I was growing up going to NYC public pools I never remember seeing a cloudy pool. And, the pools could be quite crowded. This is the case of all the balls being dropped.

  • Joho804

    This is only be what the true meaning of CLUSTER%#*& really means. Im puzzled about the cloudy water because i cannot remember ever going into a pool where visibility was an issue. I’m fairy certain that a lawsuit will come of this, but no amount of money would console me knowing that while i swam enjoying my day a dead body lay just beneath me.

  • Awest4

    Never let the red cross train yourl lifeguards. Look into Jeff Ellis Associates aquatic risk management.

  • hjs

    Yeah, Tasha Stokes, go right for the lawsuit. Lowlife! Why would you go swimming in a pool that was “white” and had a section blocked off. Seems like there were big flags waving and people like you just chose to ignore them.

  • Sbmathteacher

    Board of health guidelines dictate that if you cannot see the bottom of the pool, the ENTIRE pool should be closed.  I cannot believe that this type of incident would take place in today’s world.  I think the people in charge of this pool need to contact Ellis and Associates IMMEDIATELY so that this type of incident will not happen again.  I was a Red Cross lifeguard and an Ellis lifeguard instructor.  Red Cross (although they do many good things) does NOT prepare lifeguards well enough. 

  • mikangel23

    Its really sad about this woman’s death about been ignored without saving her! When the lifeguards have maybe the chance to save her life. But on the same time is really creepy when you go to swim a murky public pool and there is a dead body under you and no one realize it because the murky water hides it. But thank god it didnt float during the hours of swimming during the day when it gets crowded.

  • ghetto_scum

    It’s not their fault some Groidal decided to become a rock fish in their pool. This could have happened anywhere.

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