A police report has been filed and pool staff are investigating after a child was pulled underwater by an adult at a popular public pool in Auckland, leaving him “scared” and anxious.
Mike Zhang said his 9-year-old son clumsily bumped into an adult while swimming in the lanes at the Olympic Pools and Fitness Centre, Newmarket, at about 4.25pm yesterday.
The adult responded by grabbing his son’s leg and pulling him underwater, Zhang claimed.
“My boy was shocked and panicked, he drank the water and choked, started coughing,” he said.
Now, a police report has been filed by Zhang and pool management against the man and he will not be allowed to use the facilities until an investigation is completed by staff.
The Herald has approached police for comment.
Zhang said the incident took place when his son, who was the faster swimmer, tried to overtake the adult but accidentally bumped into him.
Watching the incident unfold, Zhang went to the adult swimmer once he reached the poolside and asked him why he did it.
He claimed the man started to swear at him and his son, saying: “My ‘f***ing boy’ blocked his way, he couldn’t enjoy swimming. He only ‘grabbed my f***ing boy’s leg and didn’t even punch him’, why should I get so upset”.
The pool’s general manager Nick Tyrrell said police had now been contacted and staff told not to allow the person involved into the facility.
“This person will need to speak to me, and details will be given to the police following that,” he said.
“An allegation of assault is for them [police] to follow through with, which we will be fully co-operating with.”
The team of lifeguards acted immediately to calm the “heated” situation yesterday and immediately asked the man to leave.
“The lifeguards observe the facility constantly, and do the very best to be proactive and reactive,” Tyrrell said.
“There was no prior alarm that would have caused them to act, and after Mr Zhang’s son accidentally bumped the other swimmer, that is when the leg pull occurred.”
Tyrrell said he had a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse of any kind within the facility.
“Our biggest priority is ensuring the safety of our customers and staff,” he said.
He said the incident would have been alarming for Zhang’s son and staff hoped the police acted quickly.
Speaking to the Herald this afternoon, Zhang said he returned to the pool today for a meeting with Tyrrell and an attempt to help his son overcome the incident.
“They’ve done a fantastic job and been very helpful in assisting my family.”
Zhang said his son was scared from the incident but doing much better.
He had contacted police because while his son was a top swimmer in his age group, Zhang didn’t want to see other kids who weren’t as strong in the water get hurt, especially if this happened in the ocean.
“Holiday season has started, if somebody behaves like that in the public pools, some kids might get seriously injured or even get killed,” he said.
“I need people to know this, this behaviour is not acceptable.”
Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.