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Saturday, 13 July 2013

No Inflatables -- Colchonetas No

What could be the repercussions of ignoring this rule?

Mark and Jane were enjoying their two-week honeymoon, staying in her parent's Spanish holiday villa, in a compact residential urbanization in the Costa Blanca. They had been married on Jane's twenty-first birthday and Mark is almost three years older.

It was the seventh day of their married life. The cloudless azure sky was offering no protection from the searing heat of the blazing fireball directly above them. To try to cool themselves they decided to use the communal swimming pool for a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water. It was only the second day that they had used the facility.

On the previous occasion, two days before, it had been brought to their attention, by two of the older and permanent residents within the complex, that the use of inflatable air-beds or similar objects was not permitted in the pool area. George, a placid and polite gentlemen, on entering the area and seeing Mark and Jane's inflatable armchair floating on the water had said: “It's not Edith's and my intention to be killjoys but air-bed type things are not permitted in the pool. The rules displayed on the poolside notice board clearly confirm this fact.”

“My parents own part of this pool so the rules don't apply to us. The rules are only for visitors so we'll do what we want when we want,” retorted Jane.

“The rules are for the safety of everyone using the area,” Edith replied amicably.

“It's a stupid rule,” said Mark, adding as an afterthought, “and we don't need boring old farts telling us what to do.”

From the solarium of the villa they could see that no one else was in the pool area so they decided to continue to ignore the rules and for the second time take the fuchsia blow-up armchair for Jane to use on the water. Mark had purchased the throne for his princess on their visit to the beach, at the start of their holiday, as it was in her favourite colour.

Although both she and Mark were adequate swimmers, Jane found the movement of the floating armchair on the water, when Mark created breaking waves each time he performed one of his show-off dives, a little unnerving. She liked to keep the buoyant armchair close; within a steadying arm's reach; to the promenade edge of the pool to ensure she wasn't tipped over into the water. Especially today as she didn't want to get her hair wet.

After fifteen minutes of Jane sitting relaxed and regal in the floating princess' throne and Mark getting bored with executing his mediocre range of dives he said: “Come on Jane you can't sit there all of the time, get in and have a swim.”

“No; I've told you as we're going out tonight I don't want to get my hair wet. That travel hair dryer is useless.”

“Never mind that I'm sure I've seen a more powerful one in your mum's wardrobe.”

With that Mark dived into the water. Keeping himself underwater, as close to the bottom of the pool as possible, he swam towards Jane and positioned himself directly under the inflatable, invisible to her sitting relaxed above. He bent his legs, bringing his knees as close to his chest as possible, with his feet touching the base of the pool. He stretched his arms straight-up towards the underside of Jane's floating haven and uncoiled his ranine legs, pushing hard onto the floor to give him maximum speed towards the surface. The combination of the forces, of his hands hitting the armchair and the bow wave created by his rapid movement through the water, threw Jane from the lifting, capsizing inflatable towards the side of the pool. Everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly that she wasn't able to react to protect herself. Her scream was silenced when her head crashed into the overhanging kerb-stone of the pool edge.

Pleased with his successful torpedoing of Jane into the water, Mark quickly swam underwater to the shallow end of the pool to protect himself from the anticipated wrath of Jane, by putting distance between the two of them. On surfacing, his underwater internal chuckling changed to external raucous laughing. His eyes were drawn first to the large fuchsia island floating upside-down on the far side of the pool. He looked for Jane, expecting to see her rapidly swimming towards him to reap her revenge. But she wasn't: Jane was lying face down, motionless in the water.

He waited a few moments anticipating a sudden movement when she would start her attack. She remained still: the only movement was the effect of the ripples in the water on her body. He thought she couldn't hold her breath much longer. She didn't raise her head to breathe.

“Come on Jane, enough is enough, stop mucking about.” He waited for a reaction – there wasn't one.

“Jane! Stop it!” he shouted and speedily swam towards her.

On reaching her, he grabbed hold of her shoulder that was furthest away from him and pulled it towards himself to roll her onto her back. He expected her to attack him but she lay motionless. There was no gasping for breath. Her glassy eyes were staring skywards. Her lips had a light blue hue. There was a large graze and bruising to her temple. She was unconscious.

Mark knew he had to get Jane out of the water and get her breathing. He pushed her to the side of the pool. He tried to lift her out but the water was too deep; he couldn't stand on the bottom; so each time he tried, her weight pushed him underwater. He leapt out of the water onto the side, and tried to lift her from there. He couldn't hold on to her wet body, her flimsy bikini didn't give him enough fabric to grip hold of, and she was too heavy for him on his own. They were alone in the swimming pool area.

He started shouting: “Help . . . Help . . . I need help here!”

There wasn't any response. No one seemed to be about. It was the middle of siesta time, the hottest part of the day, so most sensible people were indoors in the cool shade.

The only way he was going to get her out of the water was to move her to the shallow end. He grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her along like a floating manikin.

He continued shouting: “Help . . . Help . . . I need help here in the pool!”

Once he'd got Jane to where he thought the water was shallow enough Mark jumped into the water alongside her. He put his arms underneath Jane and started to lift her. As soon as her body was level with the beige kerb-stones he rolled her away from himself towards the safety of dry land.

He heard a male voice, from the area of the entrance gate into the pool area: “Hello in there, how can I help you?”

“My wife has had an accident in the water. I don't think she's breathing. Please come and help me.”

“The gate is locked. I can't get in.”

“I'll get our key and come and let you in.” Mark said as he rushed to where Jane and he had put their towels. He couldn't find it. “I can't find the bunch of keys. Where the hell is it. . . Damn she must have had it with her sunglasses and mobile phone in the cup holder in the armchair. As it's turned over they're all at the bottom of the pool. Please call 112 and tell them I need an ambulance for her urgently.”

“No problem. I'll also go and find someone who's got a key so the medics can get in when they arrive. I'll get some extra help.”

Mark knew he had to do something to start Jane breathing. He hadn't had any training in giving CPR but he'd seen it being enacted in television programmes. He had to try. Anything was better than nothing.

George and Edith had risen from their siesta and as they leisurely approached the pool area for their daily rejuvenating swim they could see the fuchsia inflatable and Mark leaning over Jane, his arms outstretched in front of himself, repeatedly pushing down on her chest.

“What game are those two love-birds up-to now? We could do without rudeness from them again,” said George.

“There's something wrong George, I can sense it, come on hurry-up let's get in there.”

“She's not breathing; I can't get her to breathe; I don't know what I'm supposed to do!” shouted Mark when they reached him.

“Come on son, get up out the way, let Edith deal with this; she's a retired accident and emergency nurse. I'll do my bit by calling 'Emergencies' on 112.” He refrained from mentioning to Mark that they might be old but they weren't useless old farts. Now was not the time – perhaps later.

Edith went into automatic mode. She knelt down beside Jane, placed one hand over the other, fingers interlocked, on her patients breastbone, in-line with the nipples, and started the rapid depressions. She was thinking to herself: 'Push 1, 2, 3 . . . . 28, 29,30. Hold the head back; make sure the airway is clear; pinch the nose; cover the mouth and blow in two breaths. Push 1, 2, 3 . . .

It was nearly twelve minutes, although it seemed like hours had passed, before they heard the duo-tone siren of the SUMA ambulance coming to help. George had ensured that the entrance gates to the complex and the swimming pool had been secured open to allow the medics fast, easy access. Edith was tiring; her energy and strength almost used up doing CPR during the long wait; and relieved to hand over to the ambulance team. She was despondent, distraught that she hadn't managed to get Jane to return.

The conclusion of the investigation carried out by the Guardia Civil officers who attended the scene was that it was an unfortunate case of accidental death. Jane had become unbalanced when she climbed onto the inflatable armchair, that contrary to the rules of the complex was being used in the swimming pool. She had slipped, fallen, hit the temple part of her head on the poolside kerb-stone, and drowned as a result of being unconscious and lying face down for too long a time in the water. The medical autopsy revealed Jane had a thinning of the skull in the region of her temple resulting in a fracture and an intra cranial haemorrhage.

Mark had been the only witness to what had actually happened and why. He knows who is truly responsible for Jane losing her life; for him becoming a widower at twenty-four years of age; for Jane's parents losing their only daughter.

Will he ignore safety rules in the future?

  © Elliot Sampford 2013


  1. That's something he'll have to live with for the rest of his days.
    Compelling story, nicely done! I was on the edge on my seat whilst reading this.


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