The vast majority of lifeguards at Colombia’s most famous beach town, Cartagena, can not swim, the city’s fire chief said in a leaked recording published on Thursday.
In the recording sent to local newspaper El Universal, fire chief Joel Barrios alleged that of the city’s 40 lifeguards only six can actually swim.
According to Barrios, many of the lifeguards only still have a job because of the length of time they have worked for the institution, not because they are fit for the job.
Since the controversial recording came under the spotlight, the fire chief revoked his claims and said his words were misconstrued.
In an interview with Caracol Radio Barrios said that the recording was made over two years ago. Barrios stressed that he did not mean the lifeguards lacked the ability to swim but that they rather lacked technique which was learnt empirically. According to the fire chief, he was trying to encourage the lifeguards to enhance their swimming techniques and to aspire to be more like the Navy.
However, the commander reassuringly added that all the current lifeguards deployed on the Cartagena beaches are trained to meet any problem that may occur at sea.
According to El Universal, ombudsman William Matson will start a thorough investigation to assess the state of the lifeguards.
The official also announced that each lifeguard would be tested to ensure that only qualified people hold the position. “The safety of the beaches cannot be left to people who lack the necessary skills for this job” said Matson.