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Published: Friday, 6/13/2014 - Updated: 2 years ago

Olander officials review safety, security procedures after boy's drowning

Signs about no-swimming are posted around Lake Olander, and in the background behind this sign is the designated swimming area. Signs about no-swimming are posted around Lake Olander, and in the background behind this sign is the designated swimming area.
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Proclaiming that safety and security procedures are “sufficient” at Olander Park in Sylvania where an 8-year-old patron drowned on Saturday, park director Erika Buri said a review is being conducted to make there are no “holes” in their procedures.

Among considerations are adding more “no swimming” signs around the lake that in parts is 30 feet deep, having an employee orally warn patrons entering the park, and asking the American Red Cross to review park policies and procedures regarding swimming and rescue to see whether changes are recommended.

The park has a lake for which there is a designated swimming area watched by lifeguards, but most of the lake is off limits for swimming and can be just for viewing or for use by fishermen and by people renting a paddleboat.

Mustafa Ali had been seen playing the water across the lake from the swim area, and later disappeared. Rescue workers found him nearly two hours later and he was declared dead later in a hospital.

Olander Park System commissioners are to meet Monday to discuss possibly beefing up safety and security measures, including how park employees monitor the swimming and boating areas on the lake. 

Olander Commissioners John Zeitler and Gail Abood declined to answer questions about the park‘s safety and security procedures, referring  those to Ms. Buri. ‍

The boat rental area at Olander Park is across the lake from the designated swimming area. The boat rental area at Olander Park is across the lake from the designated swimming area.
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“We had a staff meeting this Thursday morning, and we feel there are some spaces where we can add some signs,” she said.

The park has 13 signs, scattered every 400 feet around the lake, warning that no swimming is allowed. One is posted in front of the area where the boy on Saturday was pulled out of the water, in front of a picnic area.

A sign at the entrance gate to the park on Sylvania Avenue that would warn patrons of the no-swim policy outside the swim area is an option, she said. In addition, the front gate attendant might be asked to remind patrons of the rule.

“But the issue we come up against is that only non-residents stop and pay at the gate,” Ms. Buris said. Patrons with an Olander sticker in the window, which indicates the person is a Sylvania resident, are waved through the gate.

On Saturday, the young Mustafa, a Hill View Elementary School student and Sylvania resident, was rescued in the lake and pronounced dead shortly after at 8:58 p.m. Ms. Buri said that two Lucas County sheriff deputies noticed the boy with a group of teenagers swimming in the water near a row boat which a relatively apparently rented. This was across the lake from the designated swimming area in the southwest corner of the lake.

The park employs two sheriff deputies to patrol the Olander, Fossil, and Sylvan Prairie Park from 2 p.m. until the park‘s close, which is 10 p.m. this time of year on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The deputies monitor the parks for safety and to check whether patrons are abiding by park rules.

There were two deputies patrolling Saturday. Ms. Buri said the men patrol the lake and so do the on-duty lifeguards, whose hours are from 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m., when the weather permits swimming. There were six on duty Saturday.

The park director told The Blade that the deputies reported seeing patrons diving off and swimming near the row boat at 5:40 p.m. in front of picnicking area at Shelter No. 2, in the lake’s midpoint on the west side, where the lake‘‍s depth is deep. 

The deputies told the teen-aged group, which included the young Mustafa, the boat was being used incorrectly and swimming was prohibited, Ms. Buri said. They also spoke to the group‘‍s parents who were picnicking nearby, she said.

“The deputies sent the kids back [to return the boat to the shop], told the parents to keep an eye on them,” she said. “They reiterated that there is no swimming allowed. They also made sure the boat was returned.”

The ticket signed by boat renters outlines the boating rules, which in bold says, “No horseplay or standing in boats,” and “Swimming from boats prohibited.”

Ms. Buri provided the patron’s ticket from Saturday, signed by a person with an address that matches the young Mustafa’s. Renters must be at least age 16, under park rules.

The time stamp on the ticket shows it was rented at 5:30 p.m and returned at 6:05 p.m. Police were notified that the young Mustafa was missing at 6:30 p.m. The boy was brought to shore by divers from multiple agencies about 8:25 p.m. Saturday, then rushed by Life Squad to the hospital, where shortly after he was pronounced dead.

Children between 12 and 15 can only operate the boat with an adult guardian. She said park employees that manage the bait shop, which rents the boats, scan the lake for those violating the no-swim policy.

The shop’s window where patrons are served faces the lake.

Life guards, sheriff deputies, and park employees are told to ensure patrons swim only in the swim area, Ms. Buri said. The swim area is designated by a thick yellow rope, held up by blue buoys. There is also a fence around a designated toddler area.

Signs at the bait shop and swim shop window, where patrons enter, indicate the park’s policies in regards to rentals and swimming. She said the employee working both shops also informs patrons of the “no swimming” rule.

“We are here to make sure rules of the park are followed, but we trust people to be responsible and safe,” she said.

The park has an insurance policy to provide coverage for such incidents relating to death or injuries. Ms. Buri refused to disclose the dollar amount of the coverage.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or, or on Twitter @natalietrusso. 

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