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Perilous Pool Accidents Continue Unabated in South Florida

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 On April 8, 2014, Harmani and Harmony West, twin two-year-old girls, wanted to go swimming. Unaccompanied by their parents, they entered their Deerfield Beach apartment complex swimming pool. When their parents found them only moments later, they had already drowned. It was later revealed that while the pool was gated, the children could enter the area because the pool was unlocked.

Statistics show that this was not an isolated incident. In fact, tragedies like this are far too common:

  • Nearly 400 children under the age of 15 die annually due to swimming pool-related incidents.
  • More than two-thirds of children’s drowning deaths in Florida took place in swimming pools.
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (federal), Children younger than 5 represent nearly 75% of pool and spa deaths, with African-American and Hispanic youth being especially at risk;
  • 51% of pool deaths occurred at local residences.
  • For every pool-related death of a child, ten children are treated for injuries at swimming pools.
  • Drowning deaths from underage children in Florida are more than double the national average.
  • In Florida, drowning is the fifth highest cause of death for children ages 1-4.

Pool-side injuries are not limited to under-water submersion, however. Also in 2014, two young children playing in a pool received electric shocks, later determined to be caused by negligent maintenance.

Given the summer heat and humidity, a growing number of Florida households are getting swimming pools. Dozens of South Florida public parks also have them, and due to the climate, most are allowed to stay open year-round.

But with these pools comes greater chances for accidents, especially if the owners or those otherwise responsible do not adhere to the proper safety precautions.

Legal authorities say that users of swimming pools—and especially the parents of young children—can do much to protect themselves, however. It is recommended that if it is a community pool that they use, they should inspect the premises. Find out if the surface area is safe: is the equipment new, or old and damaged and in need of replacing? Is there safety equipment (e.g., life preservers, safety vests) nearby in case of an emergency? Is the pool area properly gated, is there a sign prominently displayed which reminds users to lock the gates, and do the locks work?

Florida law also requires that pools built after the year 2000 must be surrounded by an enclosed fence of no less than four (4) feet tall, a cover on the pool itself, and alarms on every window and door with direct access to the pool in an effort to protect predominantly young children from drowning accidents.

Should a resident or neighbor notice what appears to be an attractive nuisance left inappropriately secured, the landlord or other person responsible  for a given property should be contacted immediately. More deaths like those of the West girls could be prevented if this was the case.