In the past week alone, there have been three serious incidents in Akumal Bay. Thanks to the quick actions by lifeguards and paramedics, all incidents ended without tragedy.
On Tuesday, January 26, a 65-year-old American man, who was on a guided snorkel tour, was brought to shore unconscious without vital signs. Lifeguards called for the onsite Automated External Defibrillator (AED) while immediately starting manual resuscitation on the near-drowning victim. After only two cycles of CPR the lifeguards revived the man before the specialized equipment was brought to the scene. Red Cross paramedics arrived on scene to stabilize and transport the near-drowning victim to the hospital.
In a second and similar incident on January 22, a German woman in her mid-sixties exhibited shortness of breath and became distressed while on a snorkel tour. She informed the guide who assisted in bringing her to the beach, but as the lifeguards got to the woman, she was unconscious and had no vital signs.
Lifeguards immediately began performing CPR and after four cycles (two minutes) revived the German snorkeler. Although the AED was called for by the lifeguards, the woman was revived before it arrived on the scene. Paramedics stabilized the victim and transported to hospital.
“The efforts and quick actions by the lifeguards with the support of the Red Cross paramedics played a key role in saving these lives,” says Hector Lizarraga-Cubedo, director of Centro Ecologico Akumal.
“It is reassuring to know that despite having specialized lifesaving equipment for situations such as these, the lifeguards are not reliant on it. They are able to apply their training and experience to immediately take action and initiate manual CPR to quickly assist the victims.”
The lifeguards in Akumal are privately funded by the hotels and CEA, yet provide an increasingly demanding public service, particularly in high season and with the increasing numbers of snorkel tours being conducted within the bay.
One of the paramedics on scene of the January 22 incident agreed with a bystander that they do play a role in the medical response at the bay, but emphasized the fact that the lifeguards deserve all the credit in saving these lives.
In a third incident on January 20, a young British man was brought to shore and although was responsive, exhibited weakness, coughing, shortness of breath, and vomiting—symptoms of a near drowning. First response actions by the lifeguards and paramedics stabilized the young man who later declined to be taken to the hospital.
Lifeguards say the British man was part of a group of thirteen other snorkelers and one guide, who was nowhere to be found during or after the rescue.
Program Coordinator for the Coastal Management Program at CEA, Miguel Lozano Huguenin says, “Each guide that goes into the water has the responsibility of their clients’ safety. Period. The guide leading this group failed. He had no concern or awareness that his guest was in trouble, and most likely, because he wasn’t present, had no water safety or first aid experience. Lack of experience and training is a recipe for disaster.”
“The root of the issue is that there is no oversight or standardized regulations for tour companies or guides conducting snorkel tours,” explains Hector Lizarraga-Cubedo.
“While CEA provides recommendations, such as a ratio of six clients to one guide and best snorkeling practices based on research, more often than not those recommendations go ignored because there are no legislated standards and no authority to enforce them. It is much the same with safety protocols or first aid-training for guides.”
With more snorkel tours and services being offered in Akumal and throughout the region, yet without any sort of regulation, the onus of safety and safety training falls on each tour operator and guide. However, these near-drowning incidents while on a guided snorkel tour should serve as a reminder to anyone hiring guided snorkel tours to do their due diligence in finding a responsible, accountable and credible guide and/or operator.
CEA Akumal Press release www.ceakumal.org