Drowning death in Seattle leads to investigations

SEATTLE — The Seattle Fire Department is reviewing why its first responders could not find a Washington State University student who had sunk to the bottom of a murky hotel swimming pool and eventually drowned, The Seattle Times reported Friday.

Tesfaye Girman Deboch, 27, died in the pool at the Quality Inn &Suites Seattle Center on June 30, after firefighters using a rescue pole failed to locate his body.

Officials for Public Health — Seattle &King County say the pool has a history of problems and should not have been open because of the murkiness of the water. The health agency has launched its own investigation, the Times reported.

Just over a month earlier, health officials had closed the pool when an inspection revealed the water had no chlorine and was cloudy, said James Apa, a spokesman for the health agency. It was reopened two days later after hotel management corrected the problem.

“If you can’t see the drain at the bottom of the pool it’s your responsibility to self-close,” Apa said. “We can’t be there every day and every moment.”

Officials at the Quality Inn did not return a telephone message left by The Associated Press seeking comment Friday.

Deboch and about a dozen other graduate students from WSU’s School of Economic Sciences had traveled from Pullman to Seattle to attend the Western Economics Association International Conference.

Colleague Pavan Dhanireddy said Deboch was swimming at the deep end of the pool around 5:30 p.m. Minutes later, Dhanireddy saw Deboch splashing and flailing his hands and realized he was drowning. Dhanireddy, who couldn’t swim, ran to the front desk.

The first call for help came in at 5:35 p.m., according to the fire department’s 911 log. Firefighters conducted a grid search of the pool using a rescue hook and thermal-imaging camera but were unable to find Deboch, according to a fire department statement.

Dhanireddy said no one actually went in the pool during the search.

Officials decided Deboch had left the pool and hotel, even though his shoes, shirt, wallet and phone were still near the pool, according to Dhanireddy.

Calls to area hospitals and a look at hotel surveillance video found no trace of Deboch, so his colleagues determined he must still be in the pool.

A retired firefighter sitting nearby heard about the situation and determined the rescue pole was too short to reach the bottom of the pool’s deep end, said Ryan Bain, another colleague of Deboch. The man attached a squeegee to the end and searched again. The man felt the pole touch something at the bottom of the pool, Bain said.

Deboch was pulled from the pool and given CPR.

Firefighters were summoned back to the hotel at 8:12 p.m. and continued CPR but Deboch “did not respond to any lifesaving efforts,” according to the fire department’s statement.

“Since it is now clear that the drowning victim was in the pool during the earlier search, the department is reviewing the incident and will determine whether to revise any water rescue procedures,” according to the department’s statement.

Multiple chemicals are used to treat pool water, and if they’re not properly balanced the water can become cloudy, Apa said.

When the health department learned Tuesday of Deboch’s drowning, officials examined the pool and on Wednesday closed it again.

———

Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

More in Local News

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Outgoing councilwoman honored by Marysville Fire District

The Marysville Fire District in December honored outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Wright… Continue reading

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Most Read