Malvrick Donkor died surrounded by classmates. The 14-year-old slipped under the water during a swimming class at Manchester High School and never resurfaced. Surveillance video reportedly shows no splashing or struggling to swim.
The teen lay on the bottom of the deep end for 17 minutes before being noticed and pulled from the water.
No one noticed Donkor until the end of class, when a student noticed him at the bottom of the pool. The swimming teach, Thayer Redman, dove in and pulled the teen out. Several 911 calls were made while Redman performed CPR on the boy. He was rushed to the hospital and later pronounced dead.
While it is unclear how much adult supervision was present at the time, 911 calls made at the time of the accident reveal that students in the pool with Malvrick had no idea he had slipped underwater.
“We need help!” one student says in a call. “I’m at Manchester High School. We’ve had a student that’s drowned in the Manchester pool.”
The caller told the dispatcher that a teacher was administering CPR, but they had “no idea” how long Malvrick had been in the pool.
So how did no one notice? How did the entire class of kids continue to splash and swim while their classmate drowned just beneath them? According to Mario Vittone, “drowning doesn’t look like drowning.” Vittone writes of a father who was perplexed when a lifeguard frantically swam toward where he was splashing around with his wife. While the father thought the lifeguard had mistaken his wife’s playful splashing for drowning, the lifeguard was headed toward the man’s daughter.
She was silently drowning not ten feet away.
According to Vittone, an expert on boating and water safety, “Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect.” Vittone writes that most people learn what drowning looks like from television.
“Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.”
An anonymous source claims that surveillance footage shows that Donkor did not look like he was struggling.
“There’s no splashing, no flailing like you would typically think of,” the source who watched the tape told the Hartford Courant. “He just slipped under water. Other kids were swimming over the top of him, not knowing he was down below.”
Malvrick Donkor’s family, who is from Ghana, has hired a lawyer and is reportedly preparing to sue the school district.
Drowning remains the number one cause of accidental death in children in the United States.
The teacher involved has been suspended.