Navy Recruit Drowns In Hotel Pool

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A Navy recruit drowned in a hotel pool where he had gathered with other recruits a day before they were to be sworn in.

Summit County Medical Examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler ruled the death of Jerome Banks, 19, of Cleveland, an accidental drowning. His sister, Natasha, 17, said he taught himself to swim about three years ago.

But as Banks went into the pool at the Holiday Inn in the Akron suburb of Boston Heights around 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, he told two other recruits that he didn't know how to swim, according to their statements to police.

They said it appeared Banks was doing well as he swam in the three-foot to six-foot deep section. But he began struggling in a deeper area.

When they realized he was having problems, they tried to throw him a life ring. After Banks went under, the two, who couldn't swim, ran for help. Two men hurried to the pool, and one dived in and brought him up and began CPR.

Boston Heights Police Chief Joseph Varga said it was the first drowning he was aware of at that pool. Hotel officials could not be reached for comment. There was no lifeguard.

Banks, who wanted to be a firefighter, enlisted May 29, the day before he graduated from South High School.

Fred Kerner, a Navy public affairs officer, said recruits stay in a hotel because they all are taken to Cleveland by bus early the next morning to be processed and sworn in.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)