Pool break-in leads to tragedy

Raffy Boudjikanian
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After-hours pool security at issue

Pool break-in leads to tragedy

What could have been a harmless swimming session at Harpell Park Pool in Ste. Anne de Bellevue turned to tragedy overnight July 19 and 20, with two youths hospitalized after attempting to dive into the swimming pool off the roof of a chalet and hitting cement instead. "It seems to me that the boy got out of the hospital," said Ste. Anne director-general Martin Houde. "The girl was transferred to the hospital, because she is fractured severely and had complications on her lower body."

According to Houde, the two youths must have climbed the fence around the St. Pierre Street-located pool between 3 and 4 a.m., climbed to the top of the chalet, and proceeded to jump off.

The chalet near Harpell Park Pool stands slightly over 10 feet above the swimming pool. It is not clear exactly how the two jumpers made it to the rooftop, although it seems easy enough. A chain-link gate near a slightly lower rooftop of the chalet may be easily climbed to reach the lower roof. From there, average-sized adults can reach the higher rooftop with no great difficulty.

Given the lateness of the hour, Houde estimated the two were adults. "The younger kids, the teenagers, would not be up at that time," he said. "It's really sad that this would happen in our city. I think the family must be in a lot of pain right now," he added.

Neighbourhood police at Station 1, which covers Ste. Anne, had no report of the incident. Houde said that may be because ambulances arrived so quickly on the scene that police arrived only afterward and did not find anybody.

The tragedy seems to be an escalation of events from a fairly common phenomenon for local youths — the tradition of leaping over fences at public pools after closing time for a quick nocturnal dip. "Normally (youth) only go for a swim," said Houde. If public security officers catch adults in the act, the latter usually find themselves fined. If the curfew-breakers are underage, Houde said security officers accompany them home and remind parents that their children are not allowed to act this way.

Chris Vandersluis, president of the Northshore Aquatic Association, a volunteer organization that links different West Island-based swimming pools such as Harpell together for competitions and other events, said he was surprised. "The first thing I’m thinking about is what the family is going through," Vandersluis told The Chronicle.

Vandersluis also said the act of local youth trying to leap over fences of swimming pools at night is nothing new. However, he added there had been a string of vandalism attacks at swimming pools part of the association lately. "The NAA has received reports that three pools were broken into, robbed and suffered extensive damages," Vandersluis had written in a statement on the organization's website on July 9.

Despite the seriousness of what happened, Vandersluis said he did not expect major security upgrades at local swimming pools, which are typically fenced and locked up at night, and sometimes have an alarm system. "Fences are not electrified or anything," he said. Houde also agreed the incident is mostly unique and did not expect to see a boost to swimming pool safety. "In the middle of the night, I don't think we could install people or barbed wire around the fence of the swimming pool," he said.

Harpell Park Pool looked well and busy last Friday afternoon, with a lot of parents spending a sunny day outside with their children.

Dominique Grenier, media relations officer for police Station 3 in Pierrefonds/Roxboro, said swimming pool break-ins are common in that borough as well. "I would say this summer we've seen less of it just because of the (lower) temperature," Grenier said. She added municipal fines in Pierrefonds/Roxboro usually amount to about $50 for entering a public area after curfew.

None of the parties involved in this story knew the names of the youths who attempted to dive into the swimming pool at Harpell. .

Organizations: Harpell, Northshore Aquatic Association, The Chronicle

Geographic location: Ste, Pierrefonds

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