Thursday, November 08, 2012

The autopsy report on Louis Lowenthal will be made public soon - Will Bob Bowman still remain silent? - Will you?

[Edited to fix typos]

I got an email this morning stating that the Louis Lowenthal autopsy results are pending. This report will state the cause and manner of Louis Lowenthals's death. At that point the full autopsy report will also be available for a fee. I will link to that report and any commentary connected to it.

Here are my unmeasured opinions:

I am really becoming severely cross and thoroughly unimpressed with Coach Bob Bowman and it's my belief that the swim community should be too. Bowman is considered the premiere swim coach of American Swimming; (the man that molded the great Michael Phelps). His club, the North Baltimore Aquatics Club (NBAC) is internationally recognized as well. Yet, when the death of a young swimmer occurs at NBAC, Coach Bowman, like a ghost simply disappears.

CEOs are suppose to lead from the front not from the back. As the CEO of NBAC, Bowman, has made no public comment regarding the death of Louis Lowenthal. No public mention of condolences. No explanation regarding what went wrong for the boy to suddenly be found at the bottom of a pool probably for some minutes. No mention that he will oversee an investigation and will make the results known and I also see no evidence press mentioning that Bowman went to the memorial service.

Bob Bowman is not leading from the front but rather he is leading from the back, or more accurately, hiding in the back behind a lawyer. You milage may vary.

The parents are hurting and the community is hurting. The parents need to know what happened and so does every other club out there so that another family and another club won't go through the same tragedy.

It's my belief that bad examples are being set at NBAC and that is shameful. When a teammates dies due to a traumatic circumstance it is a mental health crisis and it has to be addressed immediately.

See this reference titled: Suicide and Sudden Loss: Crisis Management in the Schools. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Digest.

The reactions of survivors who have experienced a suicide or sudden loss are likely to be complex, but typically include some or all of the following behavioral characteristics: denial, anger, blaming, shame, guilt, fear, intellectualization, or hostility. Stanford (1978) and Hunt (1987) further suggested the need for direct intervention in schools with survivors. Shneidman (1972) noted that when a death occurs, particularly of an unexpected nature, there is no pattern of behavior to draw upon, and confusion results. Teachers also need help in understanding and handling young people's normal, yet often inappropriate, reactions to death. Young people often take clues as to how to react from the adults around them more than from the event itself. A paramount need is for counselors, educators and other support personnel to process the emotional needs of survivors. Intervention to enhance coping skills could ultimately prevent future suicides, or related self-destructive behavior...."


Last month NBAC was confronted with a sexual abuse allegation. A reader posted a letter from Bob Bowman in the comments section of this blog. The letter ensured families that everything was okay and no one was ever in danger. Here is that letter:

Dear NBAC Families,

This morning an article appeared on by Tim Joyce concerning a former NBAC coach. Mr. Joyce has been covering USA Swimming and that organization’s response to allegations against coaches of improper behavior involving swimmers. [...]

While I cannot comment on the allegations, I can assure you that the safety, health and well being of our athletes, your sons and daughters, are paramount to all of the staff at NBAC. NBAC is committed to creating, and protecting, a safe and healthy environment for all of our participants.

Robert A. Bowman
Head Coach/CEO

When NBAC was confronted with a sex abuse allegation, the words above came swiftly and decisively. When confronted with a tragic death of Louis Lowenthal the results are abject silence.

I am not naive, I know this is all about lawsuit suppression but there comes a time as a leader when you take responsibility for things beyond your control and make a promise that you will do better or you will replace yourself with somebody who can. (e.g. Jamie Diamond or Tony Hayward - One of whom still has his job at JP Morgan and the other, who "fell on his sword" after the British Petroleum spill, and began a successful "second life" so to speak.)

As a leader in a situation like this you publicly acknowledge the family's suffering, you publicly acknowledge your own travail and how it will inspire you to do better.  Bob Bowman has has seemingly done neither. No public message to the family, no public message to the swimming community advising sound prevention. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Though visits from Baltimore to this blog are way up, comments in the comment section from Baltimore are down. This leads me to suspect that the club is telling the NBAC kids to "shut up" and say nothing.

In the coming weeks I suspect the truth will come out. I want the truth to come out not to "hurt Bob Bowman" or the NBAC club but rather to prevent the horror of another parent getting that terrible news over the phone that something has happened to their child.

To the kids reading this, this is what it is like to hear that something terrible beyond comprehension has just happened to your child:  The phone rings and the voice on the other end sounds overly direct, blunt, and straight to the point. The news is delivered: Your parents feel an electrical jolt from the bottom of their spine to the center of their brain stem. Your mom or dad feels that this must be a mistake. Please be a mistake! Then your parent feels a strange sensation in their heart like it has been given a hard, unexpected, punch. Their throat tightens and they feel out of breath. Next, their head throbs and they are suddenly hot and beginning to sweat even though the temperature around them is moderate. Thinking has become impossible. Their knees go weak and nothing matters but their memories of you for they now know that the next 50-years or so of their life will never be the same without you.

Don't ask me how I know that.


Anonymous said...

The entire NBAC coaching staff was at the remembrance on Tuesday, including Coach Bowman as well as Michael Phelps and his mother. They all showed proper respect to the family and did NOT make a media spectacle by ensuring their presence was publicized. We all agree this is a tragedy and hope to better understand what happened so that any necessary changes can be made for the future safety of our children. As far as NBAC swimmers and families being told to keep quiet, you can be assured that no such mandate has been made. Instead, everyone, as individuals, chooses to respect the family.

Tony Austin said...

I stand corrected. The press reported on the event but made no mention of Bowman nor the Phelps matriarch in attendance.

What I said in the post was "I also see no evidence that he [Bowman] even went to the Louis Lowenthal's highly acknowledged memorial service. What I should have said was that I see no press mentioning rather than the word evidence.

I have published numerous comments to this post but they are not showing up. One was by a witness even.

I will get them into this comment section and I will address each criticism.

I may have to copy paste them into the comments section myself.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The autopsy report on Louis Lowenthal will be made...":

I hate to be the voice of reason on this site (really I do), but how about "because the parents asked him not to."

I forgot, though, that the feelings of Tony Austin, across the country in California, are more important than those of the family.

I assure you that the club has addressed the issue with its members. Even if there were no lifeguard on duty, that's not some huge institutional problem that affects people in California or Michigan or Nebraska. It's a failing of that club and that site, and the owners owe answers to the members of that site, not swimmers in other parts of the country.

Would we all like to know what happened? Of course we would - it's Phelps and Bowman, it's an interesting story to the human psyche. However, do I believe that this falls into the categories of sexual abuse where my children swimming in Arizona are less safe because of the information I will learn? No.

Tony Austin said...

You assure me that the club has taken it up with the members but you have no idea if a lifeguard was on duty?

And I don't find you to be the voice of reason either.

When a child drowns, how the event occurred is vital so as to see what can be learned from it no matter how "mundane" and unimportant it seems to you.

Anonymous said...

What time does Meadowbrook open to members on Sunday?

Tony Austin said...

Summer hours 10AM-7PM • Winter Hours 1:00PM-7 PM.

Is October considered "winter hours?"

Tony Austin said...

Summer hours 10AM-7PM • Winter Hours 1:00PM-7 PM.

Is October considered "winter hours?"

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any news reports noting that the tragedy occurred in outdoor pool. The air temperature in the morning of October 28, 2012 was in the mid to upper 50s and according to a sign at NBAC that day, the water temp in the pool was barely over 70 degrees. Is swimming outside in late October in the Northeast a norm?

Anonymous said...

You are personalizing this too much. It's not about you.

Tony Austin said...

to anonymous at 10:36

There is no press mention of the Phelps family in attendance. It was extensively covered in the press and I find it hard to believe that the press would not mention two such celebrities in attendance.

Anonymous said...

Practice was held outdoors in the heated pool.

Tony Austin said...

Was a lifeguard on deck? - Have not got an answer yet...

Tony Austin said...

You are right, this is not about me and I have personalized it. I do have a tendency to get over emphatic but that is the way I roll. This is about Louis, so, was there a lifeguard on deck?

People are quick to correct me regarding Phelps and Bowman attending but no one is talking about the lifeguard or lack thereof.

Some one answer please or it means you were either told not too or you don't know!

Anonymous said...

You are slightly off-base in your ideas of who owns and what and it comes from confusing meadowbrook the pool and NBAC the business they are not the same.

Murray Stephens and probably some others own meadowbrook the pool and property it is on.

According to press releases, Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps own NBAC the business.

Donal said...

On Sundays, Meadowbrook opens at 8 AM in the summer and 10 AM in the winter. After Oct 15th we're on winter hours.

They try to keep the outdoor pool open as long as possible. Some of us were still swimming outdoors until they closed due to Hurricane Sandy.

gorgeous!! said...

Michael Phelps was at the memorial service, he stood in the back with my two sons and myself. I did not see Coach Bowman or Mrs. Phelps. Hope this solves any of the great mystery of Michael being there. He was and he was visibly moved by the outpouring of emotion by all of us during the service.