Swim teacher didn’t see the toddler in the water. Police charged her with child neglect

Simple steps to “Pool Safely” and prevent accidents this summer

Pool Safely Educational video and some of the simple steps that save lives.
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Pool Safely Educational video and some of the simple steps that save lives.

One of a swim instructor’s greatest challenges — keeping an eye on every student in or near the water.

That can require near spider-like senses to monitor everyone, especially when they are little children who tend to be fearless and overreach their grasp.

That laser-focus attention is what swim instructors are trained to have.

But in one Florida community near Orlando it all went terribly wrong.

Jessica Kretz maitland p_fitted.jpeg
Jessica Kretz’s booking photo on May 28, 2019. Maitland Police charged her with child neglect nearly a year after a toddler almost drowned in a swim class she was teaching at Park Maitland School in July 2018. Maitland Police Department

In July 2018, Jessica Kretz, 34, and another swim instructor had 15 children in a group class at Park Maitland, NBC affiliate WESH2 reported.

While they were teaching skills, one of the toddlers who had been seated on the pool steps with another child got into the water and was not noticed by either instructor.

Surveillance video

In a segment of surveillance video posted to Twitter by WKMG Click Orlando reporter Mike DeForest, that toddler reportedly floated under the water line for about two minutes next to other children and adults.

The boy had taken a flotation device into the pool but it slipped out from under him once he was off the steps and in the water.

Kretz — who had walked along the bottom near the boy moments before without noticing him — is seen in the video pulling him up and out of the water. Another teacher performed CPR on the boy as Kretz called 911, Click Orlando reported.

On Tuesday, Kretz was arrested by Maitland police who said Kretz knew the boy could not swim.

The charges

Kretz was charged with child neglect “causing great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement or disability,” according to Orange County Circuit Court records filed on May 22 before Judge Jenifer Harris.

Kretz was released from Maitland Jail after paying a $5,000 bail.

She is ordered to have no contact with the boy’s family. The parents filed a negligence lawsuit against Park Maitland School in November that does not name Kretz but that alleges the school failed to train its employees in how to properly supervise young children in groups.

The parents claim their son “sustained bodily injury, pain and suffering of both a physical and mental nature, disability” and other ailments, including a “loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.” They are also suing for hospital expenses.

Kretz, who pleaded not guilty, is prohibited from working or volunteering with children 18 years old or younger. She also can not work as a swim instructor, swim coach or lifeguard.

“Kretz was a very qualified swim instructor and was employed with the school for more than four years,” a spokesman for Park Maitland School told Click Orlando.

After an investigation, Maitland police recommended charging both instructors over the incident, WKMG reported, but only Kretz was arrested and charged.

Pool size

The pool at the school that was used for the summer camp swim program is 21-feet in width and 34-feet in length — not even half the length of an Olympic-sized 50-meter pool.

“This is a small pool and they are not paying attention at all, completely dropped the ball,” Larry Gonzalez, an attorney representing the family in its lawsuit, told Click Orlando.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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