The police report into the drowning of a teen at Manchester High School last November could raise questions about whether budget cuts might have put him at risk.
A classmate spotted 14-year-old freshman Malvrick Donkor at the bottom of the school pool on the day before Thanksgiving break. Doctors later pronounced him dead at the hospital.
One of the most searing details from the just-released police is testimony from a police officer of her response to the school that day, saying “at this point I was told by [a firefighter] that Malvrick had been underwater for approximately 19 minutes before someone noticed he was there.”
The report also summarizes what two surveillance cameras captured: the 14-year-old lowering himself into the pool, holding onto the sides, re-adjusting his grip and then his head going under the water, while students just feet away don’t seem to notice anything wrong.
A detective notes that “with all the kids in the pool, the surface water was turbulent, creating an increased amount of overhead light reflection and distortion.”
The physical education teacher, who told police he recalled asking Donkor if he could swim and that he responded “so-so,” also told police he saw the teen dive into the shallow end of the pool two times on the day of the drowning and told him to stop. The teacher says he also told another student to tell Donkor to stop diving. Students told police there were three students helping out as lifeguards, students who’d forgotten their swimsuits or just weren’t swimming that day.
But they were not certified lifeguard students, like the ones the school’s Chair of Physical Education told police they had as recently as three years ago. According to Robert Healy, around 2003, paid student lifeguards were assigned to guard swim classes and it “worked out very well” but “three years ago … administration told them verbally that the money ran out to pay the students.”
Healy told investigators he and other physical education teachers sent e-mails and expressed concerns about staffing at the pools – and though his idea to restore student lifeguards by offering extra credit was well received, administrators did not act on it.