CARY — Wake County’s first public-pool drowning in three years was a rare and inexplicable accident, according to police and local officials.
A recently released autopsy says that 13-year-old Kayla Hall drowned. Neither nearby swimmers nor lifeguards noticed the teen’s distress as she slipped to the bottom of the pool’s deep end at Scottish Hills Recreational Club in Cary on June 8.
The narrative revealed by public records is a haunting reminder that drownings can be silent.
Kayla, who attended Salem Middle School in Apex, was believed to be a strong swimmer, and a medical examination showed no signs of an injury, though witnesses speculated that she had sustained a head injury.
No one knows how long she was at the bottom of the pool before lifeguards pulled her to the deck.
“I think it’s something we’ll never know, to be honest with you,” said Terry Chappell, the Wake County environmental health specialist in charge of public-pool regulation.
Emergency responders found Kayla screaming and combative when they arrived at the recreational club, which is considered a public pool. She “remained unresponsive” after medics took her to WakeMed in Raleigh, where she died the next morning.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Chappell said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
But it’s not surprising that a drowning could initially go unnoticed, even though the teen was near a lifeguard’s stand. Many drownings happen in silence, with victims losing their ability to call for help or extend their hands into the air.
A drowning person might struggle on the surface for only 20 seconds, according to the Coast Guard’s On Scene journal.
No fault found
In a follow-up inquiry, the Cary Police Department found that pool management had taken the proper steps in response to the drowning.
Similarly, an inspection by Wake County staff found no problems with the pool’s facilities, its staffing or its training.
A regular inspection less than two weeks before the drowning similarly found no problems. Scottish Hills Recreational Club’s management previously declined to comment in detail on the incident, saying the family had requested privacy.
A vice president of the organization did not respond to a request for comment.
In all, Wake County keeps tabs on about 1,100 pools. County staff say the last reported public-pool drowning was in 2010, though each summer brings a number of near-drownings.
Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary