LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – It took gym staff approximately 20 minutes to realize a customer had drowned in their pool, but records obtained by 8 News Now show it took 24 days for the call of distress to reach health district officials.

Las Vegas gym pools have been exempted from a lifeguard requirement since 2020 following a request from the Las Vegas Athletic Club (LVAC) to the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD).

The exemption came with the catch that gym staff were still required to monitor their pools through a video camera system.

However, health district records obtained by 8 News Now show LVAC pools were closed multiple times due to a lack of observation from staff at the front desk video monitoring system.

SNHD: Surveillance video deleted

On the morning of Feb. 4, Leticia Tripplet, 58, started swimming while continuously grabbing the pool’s edge and kicking her legs, according to video obtained by the health district.

Tripplet continued to exercise in the pool at North Decatur Boulevard for nearly thirty minutes with no issue, but then she began to show signs of struggling, according to the video.

At 8:49 a.m. Tripplet began to kick erratically and with only one hand started to grasp the edge of the pool, the video showed.

No LVAC staff appeared to be aware of any issue inside the pool, and as a result, Tripplet would struggle to keep her head above water for nearly 10 minutes, according to the video.

At 8:58 a.m. surveillance video showed Tripplet floating motionless with her head underwater, and again for nearly 10 minutes no staff appeared to be aware of any issue.

At 9:07 a.m. a swimmer in an adjacent pool appeared to notice Tripplet was motionless and entered the pool, according to surveillance video.

Customers pulled Tripplet out of the pool and immediately started CPR, and moments later the first LVAC staff member appeared to notice the commotion as they exited a nearby locker room, according to the video.

Approximately 20 minutes passed until LVAC staff appeared aware of any issue involving Triplett, according to surveillance video.

At 9:11 a.m. a LVAC club manager entered the frame of surveillance video using an AED device, but the manager’s statement indicated Tripplet did not have a pulse.

Tripplet was pronounced dead at the gym pool at 9:13 a.m. by paramedics who arrived, according to documents.

Health district officials wrote in their report it would take 24 days until their department was notified of the events surrounding Tripplet’s death by LVAC staff.

Las Vegas gym pools have been exempted from a lifeguard requirement since 2020 following a request from the Las Vegas Athletic Club (LVAC) to the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD). (KLAS)

Christopher Saxton, SNHD Director of Environment Health, wrote in his report that health district inspectors noted several violations days after Tripplet’s death at the same gym and found surveillance video was deleted.

“The failure of LVAC to notify the Health District impeded the Health District’s investigation,” Saxton wrote. “And resulted in the deletion of critical evidence, specifically video surveillance of the front desk where the dedicated camera feed was supposed to have been permanently staffed.” 

During the health district’s investigation, LVAC staff said they observed Tripplet was in distress, responded, pulled her from the water, and administered aid—those statements were found to be inaccurate.

It took 24 days for LVAC to notify health district staff of Tripplet’s death in their pool, during which time another LVAC customer would nearly drown without evidence of staff’s awareness, according to a report.

Report: Another ‘incident’

On Feb. 15, an unnamed customer went swimming in the pool at the LVAC North Rainbow location and suffered a near-drowning experience, according to a report obtained by 8 News Now.

Health district records showed the customer who was in distress was pulled out of the water by customers, not LVAC employees.

Customers called emergency services and notified the front desk at the gym, but no information was provided indicating LVAC staff observed or responded to the incident, according to the report.

On Feb. 28, health district officials were made aware of the incidents at both LVAC locations and began investigating, according to SNHD.

‘Financial catastrophe’

On June 3, Chad Smith, LVAC President, answered questions from SNHD investigators and Saxton regarding the two incidents, according to the health district’s report.

The meeting followed SNHD’s revocation of the lifeguard exemption and an appeal from LVAC; Saxton noted the arguments made by the gym contesting the health district’s decision.

“[LVAC] does not contest the Health District’s finding that LVAC failed to prevent public health and safety issues at its pools,” he wrote.

According to SNHD documents, LVAC argued that the “Health District has no jurisdiction over its pools,” citing that their gym pools are not public and additionally their business is a ‘private club,’ but Saxton denied both contentions.

Smith stated the lifeguard requirement at each of their facilities would increase their payroll by a minimum of $157,680 per month and would result in the gym’s ‘financial catastrophe,’ according to health district documents.

Saxton wrote Smith did not know and could not estimate LVAC’s total payroll.

LVAC revenue estimates were eventually obtained by the health district which indicated any concern of financial hardship or imminent collapse appeared to be inconsistent with their findings.

“In any case,” Saxton wrote. “LVAC provided insufficient context to give meaning to the limited information presented.”

Unreported incidents

The health district’s report indicated more incidents have occurred at other LVAC locations and have possibly gone unreported.

“Moreover, Mr. Smith did not initially mention until asked that there have been incidents at LVAC that were not reported to the Health District,” Saxton wrote.

Smith was asked about other water rescue events in LVAC’s history, according to the report.

“Has there ever been anybody who’s needed assistance in the pool that has required another member to help them out? … yes, there has been,” Smith allegedly replied.

Saxton also wrote that Smith was asked how their new proposal, which would be in lieu of a lifeguard, would have changed the outcome of the incident involving Tripplet, but on the advice of counsel, Smith refused to answer, according to the report.

The health district report concluded that LVAC did not provide sufficient evidence to operate their facilities without lifeguards and continued their decision to revoke the lifeguard exemption.

“This incident demonstrates that looking at a screen is no substitute for an in-person lifeguard who can walk over and quickly assess a situation face-to-face,” he wrote.

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