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Investigation released into boy’s drowning in Dayton pool; some details still unknown

Two certified lifeguards were working in the pool area at the time that a 6-year-old boy drowned in a city of Dayton pool in July, according to records released today by the city of Dayton.

Parents and guardians were also seated just feet from the Belmont Pool when Niguel Hamilton went missing and wasn’t located until about 10 minutes later at the bottom of the deep-end, according to witness statements.

What exactly happened to Hamilton may never be known because a security camera pointed at the pool was not working the day of his drowning, investigative records show. There also appears to be some conflicting details in witness statements, records show.

READ MORE: ‘Drowning is silent’: Boy’s death during swim lesson leads experts to urge safety measures

Two lifeguards told police that the water was partially cloudy and they couldn’t see the bottom of the pool clearly.

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Police investigators said the deeper areas of the pool had some reflective glare and cloudiness, which worsened when there were ripples or waves in the water, according to investigative documents.

Lifeguards and multiple parents said they looked in the deep-end of the pool and couldn’t see Hamilton.

Shortly before 630 p.m. July 12, Hamilton was one of four children taking part in a swim class at the Lohrey Recreation Center in southeast Dayton.

READ MORE: Dayton mayor issues statement on drowning of boy, 6, in city pool

A 29-year-old instructor told police he had the children, ages 6 to 9, line up on the south wall of the deep end of the pool, police investigative documents show.

The instructor had the children swim to the north side of the pool with his assistance. Hamilton was the first child the instructor took across.

The instructor told Hamilton to hold onto the wall as he went and assisted the other children, according to his statements to police. But the instructor said when he returned with other kids, Hamilton was gone.

The instructor said he asked a 17-year-old female lifeguard who was seated in an elevated lifeguard post if she saw Hamilton.

She said she hadn’t. Lifeguards said they asked Niguel’s grandfather, Willie Hamilton, if the boy had gone to the restroom. Hamilton checked the bathroom but did not locate Niguel.

The female lifeguard called for the 25-year-old senior lifeguard to help with the search, witness statements show. He was in the back office.

All three of the lifeguards have active certification in lifeguarding and other water safety training, police records show.

The instructor finished the swim lessons and dismissed the other three children as the senior lifeguard and the grandfather looked for Niguel, witness statements show. They looked in the restrooms, the lobby and outside the building. 

During the search, the senior lifeguard spotted Niguel at the bottom of the pool between the third and fourth lanes, police said.

The senior lifeguard told police he spotted Niguel while standing next to the high guard post where the female lifeguard was sitting. He later told police he did not believe the pool was cloudy.

The boy died three days later at the hospital.

Multiple parents told police they looked in the pool for Niguel but didn’t see him. 

One mother said the facility’s side garage doors were open and the sun was shining in, reflecting on the water. 

One police officer at the scene said the sunlight did cause a reflection but that he could see the black markings at the bottom of the pool when he stepped closer to the edge.

Investigators said they tried to review video footage of the incident but the security camera at the pool had not worked since around 9:30 a.m. that day. Police later had a forensics unit test the recreation center’s DVR to see if there was signs of tampering. They found no evidence of that.

The records seem to indicate conflicting details in witness statements.

For instance, a mother of one of the girls in the class says she saw Niguel jump off the diving board. She says she saw the swim instructor lead him to the edge of the pool after that but did not see whether he climbed out. 

Niguel’s grandfather previously told this newspaper that the last time he saw Niguel was when he jumped off the diving board.

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