Public pool
A dead woman was in a crowded public pool for two days. Image: phozographer/Flickr/CC BY

The body of a woman was found in a Massachusetts public pool Tuesday evening. Her body had been in the pool for up to two days while the pool was open and even inspected by the health department. A public investigation has been launched into the incident.

Sunday at the pool

Marie Joseph, 36, went to the Vietnam Memorial pool in Fall River, Mass., last Sunday with six neighborhood children and one other adult. She was driven by her friend and neighbor Veronica Reis, 21. But when Reis returned at 5 p.m. to pick them up, Joseph was not with the group.

“We didn’t leave right away, because we didn’t know where Marie was,” Reis said. “We thought she probably came back home.”

‘Went under and did not surface’

Police Chief Daniel Racine related the scene a 9-year-old boy in the group reported.

“Marie unexpectedly slid down the slide, landing on top of him,” he said Wednesday. “(The boy) further stated he believed Marie went under the water and did not surface.”

Police said the boy notified lifeguards immediately, at around 2 p.m., but no action was taken.

Body discovered on Tuesday

Joseph’s body was found about 10 p.m. Tuesday night when youngsters jumped the fence for an off-hours swim, according to police.

Authorities said Joseph had not been reported missing. Her friends said they thought she simply walked away from the pool. Joseph’s boyfriend, 45-year-old Herbert Callwood, said his calls went unreturned, and he thought she wanted to be alone.

A mother of five

Joseph was a mother of five and a native of Haiti. One adult son still lived with her at home. She worked as a housekeeper at a hotel in Newport, R.I. Upon learning of the death, Callwood said, “It’s too much bear. I just want to know what happened. And why did someone leave her like that?”

Heath inspectors visited the pool on Tuesday, noting only that the water was cloudy.

A ‘disturbing fact pattern’

The State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan said:

“The facts appear to indicate that a woman was in the water for a number of days and not noticed by staff, patrons or other inspections that may have taken place.” Sullivan called it a “disturbing fact pattern” which indicated a “breakdown systematically somewhere.”

Authorities conducting an investigation

Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Edward Lambert has vowed to ferret out what went wrong.

“We are very serious about determining the what, the how, and the why of this tragic event,” he said.

All 30 Massachusetts deep-water public pools were closed down pending an investigation. The staff at the Fall River pool were suspended and two health inspectors were placed on paid leave.

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