Now that the death of a teen girl has been ruled a drowning and an accident, officials will consider “the best course of action” moving forward, said Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp.
Mykiara Jones, 14, who lived in the Dayton area and was an incoming freshman at Middletown High School in the same district where her mother works, was not wearing a life vest when she disappeared underwater July 20 at Land of Illusion Aqua Adventures waterpark in Madison Twp.
She was pulled from the murky water 30 minutes after she was last seen and flown to Dayton Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office on Wednesday released the results of the autopsy.
Hall said since the accident he has met with Ohio Department of Agriculture and Butler County General Health District officials to strategize. He said officials wanted to wait until the autopsy results were released before any recommendations were made.
“We didn’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction,” Hall said. “We want to do what’s best for all Ohioans and not just this case.”
No state regulations exist to oversee the Land of Illusion Aqua Adventures Park because the recreation area is on a pond and not another type of water, an investigation by this news outlet found.
That’s despite state and local agencies regulating nearly every other type of water recreation area in Ohio, from splash pads to municipal swimming pools to beaches.
Hall said he lives four miles from Land of Illusion and wants to create legislation to correct the “loophole” that allows the waterpark to operate without state regulations.
Hall has called changing the way ponds are governed “a pretty easy fix.”
The health department officials said lifeguards should be able to scan their area and respond within 20 seconds. After hearing the suggestion, Land of Illusion may hire more lifeguards, according to the document.
It also was suggested that Land of Illusion post signs informing patrons they must wear life jackets when in the water.
Two days after the drowning, the water park hired an independent investigator to undertake an assessment and gap analysis of the park’s health and safety policies, procedures and programs, it said in a release.
The investigation, conducted by Dan Wood of Industrial Safety Services of Ohio, revealed no violations of law or regulations during the drowning.
“The tragedy on July 20 at the Land of Illusion Aqua Adventure Park has been devastating for a family, their friends and our entire community, including our guests, team of employees and the first responders who were there that afternoon,” park owner Brett Oakley said in a statement. “The park has been in the spotlight for weeks, and we’ve limited our engagement with the public discussions and media as we know the anguish we’re feeling does not match the devastation felt by the family over the loss of their child.”
He said the park has been working “tirelessly behind the scenes” to evaluate the events of that day and cooperate with all state and local officials who are investigating.
Wood said his assessment included review of Land of Illusion’s health and safety policies, procedures and programs including its emergency action plan, safety and emergency equipment, water safety practices and procedures, hazardous energy controls, and respiratory protection.
He made several recommendations, including:
• Invest in an Angel Detection System, which provides technology to act as an underwater lifeguard that detects non-movement and underwater emergencies;
• Make available to on-duty personnel side scan sonar and underwater remote vehicle to deploy in the event a missing person’s report filed;
• Employ trained underwater divers and have dive equipment on site ready for deployment;
• Invest in a jet ski with a drag board attached for rapid deployment in a rescue event.
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