Good question. My answer is, probably not. With a caveat; it depends on the speed of the failure.
Sometimes bearings will become excessively noisy before they fail. In this scenario the vehicle owner would notice the impending failure and hopefully do something about it. Chances are that either a torque sensor or a knock sensor on the waterpump could have illuminated the engine warning light; which may or may not have caused the driver to investigate the fault.
More often that not however, the bearings will simply "let go" and the pump will cease within seconds. In this scenario you could still illuminate a dashboard warning light but with the engine spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute (not second), it's unlikely that it would help much.
The main issue is that, at the time the belt, tensioner or water pump fails, the engine is running. It's typically the fact that the top end and bottom end slow down at differing rates that causes valve to piston contact.
On Volkswagens, the waterpump is seen as an almost consumable item and most owners or mechanics will replace it every time the cambelt is changed. It sounds like your friend has either been really unlucky or pushed his luck with cambelt change intervals (or possibly reused an existing water pump when it was last changed).