Karen Cohn and Nancy Baker watched their children die after they were entrapped by powerful suction in a swimming pool and hot tub. These two ladies, united in their grief, joined forces to fight for tougher pool safety laws and to resist efforts to weaken them. One of the mothers, Karen Cohn, said in an interview with the Associated Press, her first since her six-year-old son, Zachary, drowned three years ago:
It’s not something we’ll ever get over, but we’re hoping to make a difference so other families don’t have to suffer the same fate. The laws are trying to be rolled back by the pool industry and we really want to make sure that we’re there to protect the children.
An annual average of 385 pool- or spa-related fatalities involving children under the age of 15 were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from 2005 to 2007. Approximately 4,200 children are treated annually in emergency rooms for injuries ranging from minor cuts to near drowning.
Zachary Cohn was swimming in his family’s pool with his brother and sister on July 28, 2007, when his arm got trapped in an intake valve on the wall in the pool’s deep end. Water entering an intake valve is pumped through the filtering system under suction before being pumped back into the pool. Zachary was a strong swimmer, but he was no match for the powerful suction of the drain. Zachary’s death was caused because a company failed to install a required safety device that would have prevented the boy’s arm from getting stuck in the drain.
As we have reported previously, Ms. Baker’s seven-year-old daughter, Virginia Graeme Baker, drowned in June 2002 after being trapped by the suction in a hot tub in McClean, Virginia. A 2007 federal law named for Baker’s daughter required anti-entrapment devices in public pools. In a shocking development, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 3-2 in March to interpret the law as not requiring a backup anti-entrapment device on certain pools that have an anti-entrapment drain cover.
Critics said such covers are not enough protection to prevent entrapments if they are improperly installed or inadvertently removed. The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals advocated that interpretation of the law. The commission’s vote angered Mrs. Cohn, Mrs. Baker and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-FL), who sponsored the law in Congress. The three vowed to fight it and the Florida lawmaker said that what the Commission did was “absolutely irresponsible” and that it “incorrectly interpreted the federal law.”
Rep. Schultz believes these two women can play a key role in pool safety changes by speaking from the heart about what happened to their children. She was correct when she said, “They’ve been heroic. The courage that these two women have shown, their desire and passion to never let what happened to their children happen to any other child, their selflessness, it’s truly amazing.”
Mrs. Cohn and her husband, Brian, formed The ZAC Foundation in their son’s memory to advocate for pool safety. Mr. Cohn said, “There’s not a real voice representing the families out there.” The Cohns are working to create a model law that would require multiple drains to reduce the suction power in pools and a safety vacuum release system that prevents suction entrapment by detecting sudden suction pressure obstruction and shutting down the filtration system. They hope to raise awareness about pool safety just as earlier efforts led to seat belt and bicycle helmet requirements.
Drownings and injuries from pool drain suctions are a long-running concern. Since 1985, there have been more than 150 reported cases of swimming pool drain entrapments, leading to at least 48 deaths and many serious injuries, including disembowelment, of children and adults.
Source: Associated Press
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