2008-07-03 / News

Mackerel Cove lifeguards fired for drinking on the job

By Sam Bari

Recreation Dept. Program Supervisor Jill Goldstein, veteran lifeguards Mariah Vietri and Samantha Alger, new lifeguards Madelaine (Maddy) Suits and Karina Carlson, and Recreation Dept. Director Bill Piva gathered at Mackerel Cove to familiarize the new guards with the beach. Photo by Sam Bari Recreation Dept. Program Supervisor Jill Goldstein, veteran lifeguards Mariah Vietri and Samantha Alger, new lifeguards Madelaine (Maddy) Suits and Karina Carlson, and Recreation Dept. Director Bill Piva gathered at Mackerel Cove to familiarize the new guards with the beach. Photo by Sam Bari The beach at Mackerel Cove is still open although a police incident involving Mackerel Cove lifeguards last week has reduced the number of lifeguards available to the island's recreation department, since the three were fired Friday for apparently drinking while on the job.

Jamestown Recreation Director Bill Piva said that the Jamestown beach at Mackerel Cove is adequately staffed with lifeguards since the unfortunate incident.

According to police, they received a call the afternoon of June 26 at approximately 3:19 p.m. that a car was driving erratically on Beavertail Road. Police stopped the car driven by Kristy Lebelle, 19, of North Kingstown, because she was swerving and at one point driving on a flat tire "from an apparent impact with a curb," police said. A 17-yearold girl from Jamestown was riding as her passenger. The girls said they had gone to the Cumberland Farms store on North Main Road and were driving back to the beach at Mackerel Cove, where they both served as lifeguards, police said. A third lifeguard, a 17-year-old boy, was back at the beach. All three were on duty and had been drinking, police said.

Lebelle was arraigned at Newport District Court, where she entered a plea of not-guilty. She was released on $1,000 personal recognizance and is next due in court on July 11, police said.

No charges were filed against the other two lifeguards, who could not be identified because of their age, police said.

To solve his employee shortage, Piva said that he notified every recreation department in surrounding towns and asked for help to fill the gap. "Even if qualified lifeguards could only put in one day a week," Piva said. He received two positive calls over the weekend and the interested parties came in on Monday afternoon for interviews.

"We reduced the area for lifeguard coverage until we are fully staffed," Piva said. Two lifeguards instead of three are being scheduled. He explained that the areas where they are working are clearly marked with signs. "The remaining three lifeguards are taking up the slack so the beach is adequately protected until we can add our new guards to the schedule," he added.

"This doesn't mean they won't watch the rest of the beach. It just means they will concentrate on the areas immediately in front of them that they can access efficiently in case someone needs help," Piva said.

In addition to the lifeguards, the town is adding beach monitors to the staff. These are experienced people who have worked with the town before to assist lifeguards and help maintain discipline on all areas of the beach. This will allow the lifeguards to focus their attention on people in the water, Piva said. "We plan to put them on duty at least four days a week on Thursday through Sunday."

Piva praised the abilities of the remaining lifeguards on staff saying, "Mariah Vietri and Samantha Alger are two experienced lifeguards who have been with us for two years," Piva said. "The third lifeguard is Victor Lambert. Although new to Jamestown, he is strong and experienced with excellent skills. I have ultimate faith in their abilities and dedication to the job."

Piva said that he was disappointed in the irresponsible behavior of those involved in Thursday's incident. "I hope they learn a lesson from this," Piva said. "But I have my doubts. What they have done is unconscionable. They weren't just drinking on the job. People's lives were at stake here."

He said that restaffing at this time of year is not easy. "We have to hire from those who have taken the lifeguard test in June. Many are already employed. The test will not be given again until August. The town is fortunate that surrounding municipalities are good neighbors who are willing to pitch in and help."

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