Police investigating 6-year-old drowning at county-operated summer camp

drowning investigation
drowning investigation
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 5:00 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) - It’s the first death at a St. Louis County public pool since it opened in 1974. Wednesday afternoon, first responders were called to an unresponsive 6-year-old boy at the Kennedy Recreation Center in South County. When they arrived, a lifeguard and camp counselor were performing CPR. Paramedics continued CPR and then transported the boy to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Thursday, St. Louis County Police identified the boy as 6-year-old Travone Mister, Jr. Mister, Jr. was attending a summer camp, for kids 5 to 12 at the Kennedy Recreation Center which involved daily swimming.

The center, St. Louis County Parks and County Police are being extremely tight-lipped about the drowning. An internal report is being done by the parks department, while police are investigating separately. Both St. Louis County Police and Mehlville Firefighters and paramedics responded Wednesday. News 4 talked to Mehlville Fire Chief Brian Hendricks Thursday about drownings and swim safety.

“These emergencies happen in an instant. When I mean instant, I mean, you turn your head to the right and you go back to the left and it’s started, and these are deadly accidents that can be prevented,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks said starting Memorial Day through Labor Day, his department responds to about two to three drowning calls a month. He said they’ve seen a rise in these types of calls amid the ongoing lifeguard shortage seen in the St. Louis region and the rest of the country. Hendricks said he fears he could see even more of these calls if this continues.

“My major concern is that we’re gonna see more of these calls in light of what we’ve dealt with recently. Our staff is going to be reaching out to not only the different rec centers and community centers to check their staffing levels to see how many lifeguards they have on duty at all times and confirm they’re prepared,” Hendricks said.

It’s an extra step Hendricks said could be the difference between life or death. County leaders confirmed that county pools have not been fully staffed this year, and they currently have job postings for lifeguards on their site. Right now, it’s still unsure if Kennedy Rec Center had proper staffing at the time of Mister, Jr’s. drowning.

Moving forward, Hendricks said it’s also crucial to do additional research into summer camps before sending your kids. He recommends getting in touch with the camp’s director and asking questions.

“Find out how many lifeguards there are going to be in relation to how many children are going to be in the pool. Find out the certification level of the lifeguards, are they first air certified, are they CPR certified. Confirm they have an action plan that in the event something would happen, not only a drowning, but a medical emergency,” Hendricks explained.

News 4 is requesting surveillance video from the Kennedy Recreation Center Pool. For now, County Police are still investigating the drowning.