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Lifeguards not required at hotels — like this one, where a 6-year-old drowned

Nantucket Inn on Ocean Avenue in Wildwood
Nantucket Inn & Suites on Ocean Avenue in Wildwood (Google Street View)

WILDWOOD — There was no lifeguard on duty when a 6-year-old girl drowned in a motel pool Saturday afternoon.

And there’s nothing legally wrong about that.

New Jersey law does not require that hotels and motels have lifeguards watching over bathers.

The young girl, according to initial reports, mistakenly entered the deep end of the pool at Nantucket Inn & Suites. She was unresponsive when removed from the water by guests, and was pronounced dead hours later at a local hospital.

“In an ideal world at the Jersey Shore, there would be lifeguards at every hotel or motel,” said Carol Ann Giardelli, director of Safe Kids New Jersey. “So we really have to depend on the parents to watch the children. It is their ultimate responsibility.”

Giardelli said Safe Kids recommends that kids don’t swim alone, even in small hotel pools. The organization promotes the “Water Watcher” strategy; when there are multiple adults around a pool with children, adults take turns devoting a few minutes to solely watching the children in the pool, with no other distractions such as cell phones or meals.

According to personal injury attorney Roy Konray in Clark, the lifeguard exemption for motels and hotels has been on the books for at least 25 years in New Jersey.

“The reality is, especially for smaller motels, they’d have to close the pool if they had to have lifeguards there all the time,” Konray said, noting certain locations may not be able to find or afford coverage for all open pool hours.

James J. Uliano, a personal injury attorney in West Long Branch, said while state code does not require a lifeguard be present, hotels must have signage indicating “no lifeguard on duty.”

It has been reported that plenty of signage was visible at Nantucket Inn.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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