Chinese student drowned, pathologist tells inquest

Drowning was the cause of death of a Chinese student in Saint John two years ago, a coroner's inquest was told on Thursday.

Autopsy showed Yifan Wang, 17, had no signs of trauma or problems with heart or lungs

Drowning was the cause of death of a Chinese student in Saint John two years ago, a coroner's inquest was told on Thursday.

Yifan (Jason) Wang, 17, died in hospital on Sept. 20, 2011, two days after being pulled unresponsive from the pool at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre.

Pathologist Marek Godlewski testified his examination of Wang found no abnormalities — no drugs in his system, no signs of broken bones or trauma, no problems with his heart or lungs.

There were some bruises and abrasions on his body, but they could have been caused by the rescue and efforts to revive him, Godlewski said.

Wang, who had recently moved to Saint John, drowned, he said.

Intensive care specialist, Dr. John Mowatt, also told the jury that Wang experienced oxygen deprivation for a significant period of time.

Mowatt, who treated Wang at the Saint John Regional Hospital, detected rudimentary brainstem reflexes, but the neurological damage was severe, he said.

As brain tissue dies, it swells, said Mowatt. That's what happened to Wang, he said.

Lifeguard changes recommended

The inquest also heard from a safety experts, who recommended changes at the Aquatic Centre.

Mike Shane, of the Lifesaving Society, said the facility should rethink the way it assigns the lifeguards.

"I would say direct supervision is required of specialty equipment like waterslides and Tarzan ropes. And that direct supervision should be at water level," he said.

As it stands, a lifeguard is positioned at the top the three-metre slide Wang went down, the inquest heard. It would be better to put that lifeguard at the bottom to provide a better view of the swimmer and to be closer in the event of a problem, Shane said.

Gregoire Cormier, the aquatic co-ordinator at the public pool, Dieppe Aquatic and Sport Centre, described the lifeguard set up there.

"Basically, the exit of the slide as well as the stairs leading to the top of the slide, is at the same location," he said. "So I have a lifeguard positioned at the bottom of the stairs. So he can control access to the slide as well as supervision of the swimmer that would come out from the slide."

The coroner's inquest, which started on Tuesday, is meant to determine the facts surrounding Wang's death and to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

It is expected to conclude this afternoon.