Reported by Alexander Chiu and Shengwen Lee for CNEWS, Taipei
“My younger brother died because of the neglect of the duty of the lifeguard at Le Méridien Taipei”, the victim’s elder sister said. Wang Chih-ya, Wang Ching-chieh’s sister and one of the consultants of the Taipei City Government, claimed that her younger brother is a Centurion cardholder. On July 29th, 2020, Wang Ching-chieh went to Le Méridien Hotel in Taipei, which has a partnership with the American Express company, to consume and use the swimming pool. From the video, it can be seen that after more than 20 minutes of being in the water, Wang went ashore to rest on a lounge chair because of obvious physical discomfort. However, there were no high chairs and clearly marked lifeguards at the swimming pool. At 19:36, Wang called the counter for help, clearly indicating that he “needs medical help since he has problem breathing and has chest tightness”.
Faced with Wang’s desire for help, the hotel staff misjudged him as “low blood sugar” and provided a series of non-medical services such as eating and changing postures. Even made the victim, who was suffering from myocardial infarction, take 34 steps, depleting his oxygen and physical strength. During the period, the victim had called the counter the second time at 20:03, conveying clearly that he still couldn’t breathe the air, needed medical treatment due to the chest tightness and wished to be accompanied by someone. However, the hotel still wouldn’t call the ambulance for fear of influencing the business image. Thus, they kept asking Wang to take a taxi to the hospital solely, causing the death of the victim.
Wang Chih-ya indicated that there are some key points in the incident: From the victim asking the counter staff for help, to the death resulting from a myocardial infarction, the lifeguard on duty never appeared during the course which is more than 40 minutes. This is one of the main factors of the sudden death of a Media Tek engineer at Le Méridien Taipei hotel in July last year. Afterwards, the lifeguard claimed that he was busy taking care of other elderly and children, completely forgetting his duty as a lifeguard. The evidence of negligence was conclusive. It can be said that the repetitive mistakes, a series of delays, and not being able to get medical help in time, are the causes of the death of the victim. They can all be blamed for the negligence of the staff.
According to the Swimming Pool Management Legal Norm point eight: ” A swimming pool owner or operator shall provide lifeguard service at a swimming pool, according to the total area of the pool, when it is open for use.” Wang, the victim, visited Le Méridien Taipei hotel on July 29 last year. After swimming, he felt unwell and went ashore on his own. He called the counter staff for help, indicating that he was feeling chest tightness and was unable to get enough air. There is no doubt that lifeguards must take care of the customers when they feel unwell in the swimming pool. However, the lifeguard let the swimmers who requested rescue find no one. Therefore, all Wang could do was go ashore reluctantly and call the counter for help on his own.
As claimed by Lifeguard Qualification Law clause three: “The scope of lifeguards’ duties is as follows: 1. Observe both the physical and mental state or emotional response of water activists, and deal with their problems appropriately…. 3. When water activists are faced with incidents, the lifeguards should respond immediately. If necessary, give first aid.” However, the lifeguard on duty, Chen, did not show up after the deceased asked for help. All the hotel did was send a staff without first aid training to make sure everything was alright. Due to the staff’s lack of medical knowledge, he didn’t notice that the deceased had had the early signs of myocardial infarction and needed proper medical treatment urgently. Rather than measuring the heartbeat and pulse, and giving oxygen to the victim, he guided every process mistakenly in the way of dealing with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Such misjudgement led to the miss of a precious rescue moment.
According to the Myocardial Infarction 2020 Guidelines: ” Released by National Health Research Institute, there is a 70.2% chance of “having difficulties breathing”(dyspnea) and a 79.1% chance of “having chest pain” when it’s a case of acute myocardial infarction. The deceased in this incident had both symptoms at the moment. Notice that if symptoms related to myocardial infarction occur, after receiving proper treatment within five minutes, the cases of occurring again could be eliminated to none. In other words, the earlier the treatment is executed, the lower the damage and the higher the chance of recovery.
Considering the facts provided by Le Méridien Taipei hotel and the timetable for handling the situation, it can be seen that the lifeguard on duty had missed. People who were dealing with the situation were only the foreman and other hotel staff. According to the confession of the lifeguard, he explained he was busy taking care of other elderly and children, and therefore didn’t give a hand to the deceased. In addition, he noticed that his colleagues were taking care of the situation, and thus he neglected the severity of the problem.
Did the lifeguard forget his duty? He is neither a homeroom teacher of a cram school nor a caretaker from a nursing home. How is it possible that having fun with the elderly and children is more important than giving first aid to the swimmers who are feeling unwell? If he had checked the situation at the first moment , if he had measured the deceased’s blood pressure and heartbeat after finding out that his discomfort had not been relieved, and if he had given the victim oxygen and called for decent medical help, the whole thing would have been different and the tragedy might not have happened. Isn’t it the negligence of the lifeguard that he didn’t show up and deal with the problem immediately, which caused the death of the deceased?
According to Criminal Judgment S.G.Y. No. 1682 （High Ct., 2005）: “The victim was a consumer who used the swimming pool, and the accused was a lifeguard employed by the swimming pool. Thus, the accused voluntarily assumed the obligation as a guarantor, who is obliged to prevent the victims from drowning and causing serious injuries.” The lifeguard Chen admitted that he was a lifeguard in the swimming pool of the Le Méridien Taipei hotel, so he was a “person who voluntarily assumes obligations” and remained the status of a guarantor to the consumers at the swimming pool.
The lifeguard failed in his duty without permission, abandoned the help seeker for playing with the elderly and the children. How can customers in the swimming pool entrust their lives to a negligent lifeguard? The Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office decided not to prosecute temporarily. However, if there is still a trace of justice in Taiwan, the hotel-related personnel will not be able to escape the criminal responsibility of the negligence leading to death, in order to meet the expectations and the understanding of the society.
As far as this case is concerned, the accused is obviously not suitable to continue to be a lifeguard. At least his qualification as a lifeguard should be revoked. The relevant unit should also give immediate fines to both the lifeguard and the business unit to protect the lives of other swimmers and avoid foreseeable tragedies.
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