Coroner, Experts Discuss 3-Year-Old's Drowning Death

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental deaths among children, according to water safety experts.

Two days following the drowning of a Bryn Mawr 3-year-old, the Montgomery County coroner provided greater context for the girl’s death.

Newtown Township police and ambulance responded at 4:49 p.m. Saturday to St. Albans Swim Club in Newtown Square, where someone was already administering CPR to the girl when they arrived, Newtown Township Chief of Police Dennis Anderson said Saturday.

Joan Elizabeth Logan, 3, was pronounced dead at 5:40 p.m. Saturday at Bryn Mawr Hospital, and Montgomery County Coroner Walter Hofman . Despite requests from concerned family friends to both him and to Patch asking that he retract his statements, he said his statements were based on facts, both from police reports and from witness accounts.

“The father said he and his wife were talking to other adults near the pool, went looking for her, did not see her in the baby pool…and saw her floating in the (middle) pool,” Hofman said. “They lost sight of the baby.”

Experts like Mario Vittone and Shawn P. DeRosa said numerous factors contribute to childhood drowning, which they said is the second leading cause of accidental deaths among children younger than 15.

“Ninety percent of kids that drowned are considered to be supervised when it happens,” said Vittone, a maritime expert with the U.S. Coast Guard based in Norfolk, Va. “Unlike on TV, it happens in 20 to 60 seconds and is silent.”

An acquatics director and safety coordinator at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, DeRosa said monitoring children in water is different than at home. 

“Children, as any parent can attest, can quickly get away from you… Drowning is silent and deadly,” DeRosa said. “There might not be screams, no crying,” he said, advising parents to remain in water with small children and within an arm’s reach.

Vittone, who runs a water safety website, said childhood drownings “almost always are about losing sight of the kid.”

In an example, Vittone described a scenario with a competent lifeguard monitoring the situation.

“With 20 kids playing, the lifeguard can’t always see that kid in the back,” he said.

Both Vittone and DeRosa hailed work done by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance as a resource for parents to consult in pool safety. Vittone also noted a recently launched federal program called PoolSafely.gov.

Many Logan family friends said in calls and emails that the Logans are great people and great parents.

Several readers who did not know the family expressed their sympathy in emails to Patch.

“I am so, so sorry about the awful news,” wrote reader Mandy Meiler. “It is all I can think about, and we don’t even know you. We have three girls. I cannot imagine how terrible life is for you right now. Take care, and know that many thoughts are with you.”

Wrote another:

“We did not know this sweet angel Joanie, but she and her family have been in our constant prayers. May her beautiful family find strength in each other and their way to eventual healing. God bless her parents.”

charb June 02, 2011 at 03:22 PM
What were the lifeguards doing???? It is there job to see that one kid in the back of the "twenty playing"! That's often why families choose a pool away from the home - where there are lifeguards for that extra padding of visual protection. This child never should have drowned! St. Albans need to take some responsibility here too!
charb June 02, 2011 at 03:41 PM
It also amazes that these "experts" are ever so easily nonchalant about the depth of the middle pool, noted it to be "3-4 feet deep". Well which is it experts?!?! There is a big difference between 36 inches and 48 inches - a whole foot difference. A child @ 40 inches tall may have more of a shot surviving in 36 inches!
Melissa June 02, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I also think that someone should be looking into the pool staff that responded that day - what is their training and certification requirements. And why were there no lifeguards at a pool that measures 3-4 feet deep? I think it should be a requirement that there should be lifeguards there or a fence around that pool - for many residential pools there is a fence requirement. It would be interesting for the writers of these articles to look into the pool itself and how a situation like this could've happened there.
Melissa June 02, 2011 at 05:36 PM
And I also agree that the coroner's statements should've stopped after he stated accidental drowning as the cause of death. His job is to perform an autopsy and list the cause and manner of death, in this case the cause is drowning and manner is accidental. He is not being paid for his personal opinions about what occurred with the family. That would be information that the police would collect and if they wanted to release these findings to the press it should be up to them - I think they most likely have more respect for the grieving family. At the very least, if the coroner wanted to comment on something other than the cause and manner of death, than the writer of the article should have preceded the statement with "in his personal opinion, after reading the police report, the coroner believes..." The author and coroner should keep in mind that they are trying to convey this lesson to the masses but in the process they are hurting a grieving family even more. There were definitely other means to get your point across that pools can be a dangerous place for children.
Ziggy June 02, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Completely unnecessary...not to mention unprofessional! The Inquirer knew better than to even quote a coroner's assumptions. The editors from Delco Times were ethical enough to agree that it was wrong of them to include that quote in their article and they removed it yesterday. But Danielle Vickery and Sam Fran Scavuzzo only care so much as to how many people they get to view their website and read their inferior "paper". What are the two of you thinking after receiving all of those phone calls/emails yesterday?! You have some nerve! How dare you upset a family that has been hurt enough? The fact that neither you or this "paper" had the decency to simply remove the quote from your article yesterday and instead wrote a follow-up article, just proves that the two of you do not belong in this line of work. Get a new job! It's not right that you went ahead and quoted a coroner's assumptions. That is not even his job. He provided you with the autopsy results and that's as far as it should have went, you all should be ashamed of yourselves. There are many, many terrible things I'd like to say to the two of you, but I will not stoop to your level of immaturity and heartlessness. I'll let karma handle the rest...
Larry June 02, 2011 at 10:38 PM
It states in your article that the coroner made his comments after reading a police report and witness accounts of what happened and that is why it was correct to type these comments. I agree with the above who says that a coroner's job is to provide the cause of death, that's it. No further comment needed from him. Also, I heard from a witness who was at the pool that day and she said that while everything was happening that day and as everyone figured out what was happening, the patrons at the pool were the ones to call 911 at the request of the father and the witness I spoke with said that she saw the lifeguard just sitting frozen not doing anything to help. That was the initial reaction on their part - would've been interesting if a real journalist would've investigated this aspect of the story -How the training (or lack thereof) of these lifeguards and the conditions at the pool would've allowed this type of tragedy to happen. Instead these particular people who are trying (and failing at the moment) to be journalists, wrote about unfounded comments made by a coroner about details he wasn't qualified to comment on.
Jennifer June 03, 2011 at 12:03 PM
We all know that when you take a kid out of the pool the first thing they do is run towards it when your not looking. I feel horrible for them
Jennifer June 03, 2011 at 12:07 PM
As for the lifeguards...most of them are students who are looking for summer jobs these are not professional lifeguards like we have at the Jersey Shore...I believe pools have an age restriction indicating who can swim alone without supervision, I'm pretty positive the baby pools are an area where you are respsonsible.
R June 03, 2011 at 03:36 PM
As the mother of a young child, this is a heartbreaking reminder that unfortunately, this could easily happen to ANYBODY. Even with a pool full of lifeguards and parents, it really does only take twenty seconds. Along with many family, friends, and strangers, who have also expressed their sympathy, my thoughts and prayers go out to Joan's family.
James June 03, 2011 at 11:55 PM
So sorry.............but when you become a parent you have the complete responsibility to take care of , and protect your child. You need to be extremely and doubly and triplely aware of your 3 year old around any kind of danger, especially water thats deeper than the height of the child. Come on, give me a break, these parents are very popular and well liked, and I know no one wishes them to be responsible for the drowning of their little baby. But ultimately they were the first line of safety protection for that child. Sure you can blame the club in some way, but in this case its not the club at fault. So sorry.
Katie June 04, 2011 at 12:58 PM
I have 4 beautiful healthy energized children - and I admit that I have lost sight of them in my 12 years of being a mother - stop with the stones - your glass houses are precious and must stay perfect -
Jennifer June 05, 2011 at 12:13 AM
I don't see anyone throwing stones Katie, I lost sight of my child one time and she almost got hit by a car. I must say that I never let her out of my sight again and it made me a better parent. I noticed myself watching other children as well as I became hyperalert to kids.
alyson simpson June 05, 2011 at 02:47 AM
I am a pediatrician and an allergist. My heart goes out to this family. I am that worried mother who loves my patients and my child to death. I have been found guilty of him standing at the top of the steps while I'm chasing him up or downstairs. I once was at a bbq and a friend had to catch him before he got too close to the grill. We are humans and it takes a village to raise our children. I can't imagine what these parents are feeling and I can promise you that they lived their loves through their precious daughter. 3 years of age is that age you go from a baby to a toddler- we've all turned our heads at times and been surprised by our children. Please be sensitive to what you write. I can promise all parties involved will learn from this lesson and feel badly. The worst is drownings happen to the best of families including a famous football player. The best we can do is learn from the situation and be better parents and supporters from this event. I hope the parents can know that our hearts go out to them and we will become better paretns and physicians and educators from their loss. My heart goes out to you.
Jennifer June 05, 2011 at 07:38 PM
So heartbroken for this family I never met. I am signing both of my children up this week for swimming lessons. Being a parent doesn't make you infallible . We are human and all capable of mistakes, my heart weeps knowing the parents have to live with the emptiness in their heart each day. I'm sure all parents will be a little more watchful and aware after learning of this tragedy. God bless this family I will keep you in my prayers everynight.


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