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Tenafly Rescuer: JCC Lifeguards Weren't Watching Pool When Boy Drowned

Diane Levy rescued Michael Placide from the JCC pool. He died on his 9th birthday.
Diane Levy rescued Michael Placide from the JCC pool. He died on his 9th birthday. Photo Credit: Diane Levy

TENAFLY, N.J. — Had the lifeguards on duty at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly been paying closer attention to the pool, a 9-year-old boy might still be alive today, his rescuer says.

Moments before Diane Levy of Tenafly helped a guard pull Michael Placide from the pool last month , she struggled with whether or not to say anything about two of the on-duty guards.

"They were playing around going back and forth," Levy told Daily Voice, speaking out for the first time about the incident.

"They weren't looking at the pool," she said, "but then I did and I saw a woman making a sign in the water — there was something in the pool."

It was Michael -- waterlogged and limp.

Levy carried him into the shade and waited helplessly for guards to begin CPR.

"The two lifeguards who were supposed to watch the pool didn't do CPR, and we had to wait for another to come and do it," she said.

"After doing CPR for 15 minutes, the pulse came back," she said.

What troubled Levy most was that the same lifeguard who was on duty that fateful day was still guarding the pool when she returned last week.

Police ruled the drowning an accident, CEO Jordan Shenker told Daily Voice.

"I won't comment on the personnel situation," he said.

"All of the JCC's lifeguards are mandated in terms of the qualifications," Shenker said. "All guards must meet qualifications for certification training, are certified and receive ongoing training throughout the course of the year."

Levy, who's still haunted by the incident, launched a GoFundMe page that had raised more than $2,100 as of Tuesday evening.

The funds will go to Michael's family, who Levy said brought him to the pool to celebrate his birthday, which passed before he died.

Levy is committed to fighting for Michael's memory.

"Because of that lifeguard, someone lost a child," Levy said. "A little boy lost his life. This is not a game."

The JCC released a statement following the incident:

The entire Kaplen JCC community remains heartbroken over the accident. We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the child. The Kaplen JCC is fully committed to the safety of our members and guests and assure our community that our pool is safe for all members and guests. Our internal procedures continue to meet or exceed all safety standards as required by the state of New Jersey.

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