Any camp that offers swimming activities at a beach, pond or lake must follow certain laws.

Each summer thousands of children across Massachusetts attend summer camp. Parents send their children to summer camp expecting them to have a good time, make new friends, develop confidence, and be creative. When parents send their children off to camp the last thing they expect is for children to be injured in a drowning accident.

Many camp activities revolve around the water and swimming. While water is a great source of fun it can also be a great source of danger. Drowning is a serious risk, especially for children. There was an average of over 3,500 unintentional drownings every year between 2004 and 2014. Approximately 20% of the people that die from unintentional drownings every year are under the age of 14. For every child that dies in a drowning death another 5 children visit the hospital emergency room.

Near drownings can be just as serious. Near drownings can leave children with permanent brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. This is known as cerebral hypoxia. The timeline for hypoxic brain injuries varies from child to child. The following is a general timetable.

  • A child will likely lose consciousness if they go without oxygen for 30 to 180 seconds
  • After one minute without oxygen brain cells begin dying
  • Serious and permanent brain damage is likely if a child goes without oxygen for three minutes
  • Death likely occurs after 5 minutes

When a child is injured in a camp drowning accident, one of the most important things that needs to be done is to determine whether or not the camp failed to take necessary precautions to prevent the drowning accident. Any camp that offers swimming activities at a beach, pond or lake must follow certain laws. These laws were written to protect children from preventable drowning accidents. The following section details some of the recreational swimming safety laws camps must follow.

Camp Responsibilities

According to M.G.L. Chapter 111,§127A½, (Also known as “Christian’s Law”) camps need a system in place that will allow them to determine each minor’s (person under age 18) swimming ability at the camp’s first swimming session in order to identify and classify non-swimmers and at-risk swimmers. Minors attending a camp then need to be confined to swimming areas consistent with the limits of their swimming skills or to swimming areas that require lesser skills than those for which they have been classified. This law only applies to camps with swimming or diving areas at marine or freshwater beaches and explicitly excludes swimming pools, wading pools, and other artificial bodies of water.

  • At-risk Swimmers: Are any person under the age of 18 that has a physical, psychological, medical or cognitive disability that could have a negative impact on their swimming ability. It does not matter in they have passed a Red Cross Level 3 or YMCA Minnow swim proficiency test.
  • Non-swimmers: Any individual under the age of 18 that has  not yet passed a Red Cross Level 3 or YMCA Minnow swim proficiency test, or other equivalent classification as approved by the Department.

Camps then need a system in place that will allow camp personnel to determine if non-swimmers and at-risk swimmers are at a swimming or diving area they are not allowed to be near. This can be done by providing colored wrist bands that are not easily transferred between campers or providing non-toxic, waterproof, temporary tattoos that allow staff to easily identify at-risk swimmers and non-swimmers.

Camps also have a duty to provide non-swimmers and at-risk swimmers with Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFD). Christian’s Law also requires camps to accept a PFD from a parent for their child to use when licensed camps conduct swimming or waterfront activities at fresh or saltwater beaches.

Summer Camp Drowning, Wrongful Death Accident Lawyers

Our wrongful death attorneys assist family members of fatal accident victims throughout all of Massachusetts including but not limited to Plymouth County, Brockton, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Marshfield, Hingham, Duxbury, Wareham, Abington, Rockland, Whitman, Hanson, Holbrook, Middleborough; Norfolk County including Quincy, Stoughton, Dedham, Weymouth, Braintree, Avon, Holbrook, Randolph, Canton, Sharon, Brookline, Franklin; Bristol County including New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, Attleboro, Westport, Dartmouth, Mansfield, Easton, Raynham, Lakeville, Norton; Cape Cod, Hyannis, Falmouth, Barnstable and the Greater Boston area including Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Everett, Lawrence, Lynn, Revere, Dorchester, Roxbury.