An uncovered water circulation pipe at the public swimming pool is
being blamed for the death of Harmony Tobin of Alexandria.
Harmony robin, 10, of Alexandria drowned Monday when she was caught
in a 6-inch-wide pipe at the Beulah Park municipal pool diving board area.
The placement of the pipe was an obvious code violation, said
Julianne Fletcher, former president of the Alexandria Park Board.
Harmony, a member of the Elwood YMCA swim team, died when she was
caught in a 6-inch-wide pipe used to filter the water from the pool.
Most pipes used to pump water from pools and into filtration systems
are flush with the wall or the bottom of the pool and have a protective
grate covering them.
"I knew something was wrong," she said. "I knew it
wasn’t safe. I never dreamed it was going to kill somebody."
Fletcher said she spoke with county health administrator Steve Ford
last July and wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper in which
she referred to "horribly obvious code violations" at the
Ford said Tuesday he didn’t recall Fletcher’s specific complaint.
But he conceded that a lack of funds and a cut in the department’s
budget forced the department to suspend pool inspections last summer.
Ford said he has not visited the Alexandria pool in the past five
years. The new filtration equipment went in three years ago to replace a
leaking system. Ford said he has not inspected the new system.
"A person trusts that the municipal pools are inspected and
safe," Harmony’s father, Brent Tobin, said.
Harmony left her brother Matthew’s birthday party Monday afternoon
to swim at Beulah Park, Tobin said. Although there is a swimming pool at
the family’s home, Tobin said, he often drove Harmony to the municipal
pool so she could swim with friends.
A lifeguard and a fellow swimmer noticed Harmony was caught and tried
to pull her from the pipe, but the water pressure made it impossible to
save her. Firefighters eventually smashed the plastic pipe to free her,
said Alexandria Police Detective Dennis Semon.
Initial police interviews show that no one witnessed how Harmony was
caught by the pipe.
But she was heard telling another swimmer that she liked to feel her
hair getting sucked into the pipe, Semon said.
Eight lifeguards were in the pool area at the time of the drowning.
Police are investigating a report that none of them had a key to turn
off the pump, which would have freed Harmony, Semon said.
The drowning is being treated as an accident, and no blame has been
placed, said Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay.
While the drain was different from those at most other pools,
Dunnichay said the accident should be a warning to parents:
They need to remind their children never to play near pool drains.
"All pools have drains; and the best advice we can give is that
the pool is a fun place, but they need to stay away from a drain in any
environment," Dunnichay said.
City officials said they’ve been told by the city attorney not to
talk with the media until the investigation is complete. The pool and
Beulah Park will remain closed.
"We’re trying to see if there’s anything else we could’ve
done, but right now it’s just too early to tell," Semon said.
"Right now it’s just an accidental drowning." Tobin said
officials should have thought of safety before his daughter’s
"If I had any idea a public pool could be unsafe like that, I
wouldn’t let my child or any others go in it. This is so senseless to
me. As far as I’m concerned, my little girl is dead because of
Harmony’s parents said it is too early for them to know whether
they will file a lawsuit.