ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – After months of pushing St. Louis County for answers about a tragic drowning, FOX 2 is learning about child safety changes.
T.J. Mister drowned last July at a county summer camp. We’ve exposed numerous safety failures, some of which we’ve learned are now being addressed.
St. Louis County is now instituting strict CPR requirements for all employees at its rec centers. The county’s also now hired a reputable pool management company to oversee those safety changes.
“It’s definitely a good start, but, you know, it’s sad that it took for us to lose our son,” said Travone Mister, T.J.’s father.
Travone and Olga Mister are determined to prevent other parents from feeling their pain. Their son never returned home from the summer camp he attended at Kennedy Recreation Center in south St. Louis County.
“Just knowing that if they would have done the right thing and if they would have followed through with it, he’d still be here,” Olga said.
FOX 2 has put together more than a dozen reports about the safety failures, the lifeguard shortage, the missing AED equipment, and the loophole that allows summer camps to operate with no regulation.
But it’s the reported CPR failures that may haunt the Misters most. According to internal St. Louis County documents, a counselor stopped CPR to look for parts to an AED, then never found those parts and did not use the AED. When a counselor used a bag valve mask, an audit report notes, “Most breaths went out the side, and did not cause the chest to rise and fall.”
“This was an event that was wholly preventable,” Doug Forbes said.
Forbes was the first to obtain the documents in his quest to improve camp safety across the country. His daughter, Roxie, died in 2019 at a Southern California summer camp.
Regarding St. Louis County’s tragedy, he said, “It was very, very clear to me that there was no emergency action plan. There was no understanding of how to react.”
St. Louis County is now making changes, including requiring employees at all four of its rec centers to be CPR trained.
Employees dealing with the pool will be required to have a second tier of CPR training and the county has hired a local pool management company who will recruit, train, and manage pool staff.
“This is what we’re pushing for, the change, the different things they’re starting to do now,” Travone said.
Olga Mister continued: “It took our son to realize that that’s important, and I wish they would’ve listened sooner.”
Their mission is just beginning as they push for more changes, including a new law requiring summer camps to be regulated similar to the way childcare centers are regulated.