Aqua Mag. August 1999

Ironically, within weeks following a Sally Jessy Raphael show concerning spa and pool safety, two instances of children becoming entrapped by drain suction were reported.

The theme of the talk show, which aired June 10, was "Is Your Child Safe?" and featured reports on incidents of drain entrapment and diving injuries.

One guest on the show was Sandy Garber, whose son Scott became trapped in the familyís spa two years ago. Garber has become active in promoting the use of anti-entrapment devices. 

Four days after the Raphael show aired, 6-year-old Jeremy Belotto of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was playing with four other children in his familyís spa when he became entrapped by the bottom 1-by-2-inch drain.

 

According to reports, Belotto was under the water for about a minute before the pump was shut off and he was freed. Belotto was taken to an area hospital where he was treated for injuries suffered to his abdomen. He was later released in good condition.

A week later, 10-year-old Harmony Tobin drowned when her hair became trapped by a return line in a municipal pool in Alexandria, Ind. A 6-inch wide pipe on an open filtration system used by the public pool was the cause of the entrapment. Lifeguards on duty were unable to pull Tobin from the pipe due to the suction and firefighters were only able to free her by smashing the PVC pipe, which was exposed on the pool deck at the poolís deep end.

Julianne Fletcher, former president of the Alexandria Park Board, said she had warned city officials a year ago that the pool was unsafe but was told the city didnít have time to inspect it.

Meanwhile, the parents of Harmony Tobin are currently gathering evidence for a lawsuit against the city, its Parks Department and the Madison County Commissioners.

Ron Schroader, technical director for Vac-Alert Industries, says the recent cases are unfortunate, and he points out that turning off the pump alone is not enough to relieve the suction vacuum when drain blockage occurs. Atmospheric pressure needs to be introduced into the system to break the kinetic force of the flowing water, he says.

Donald Burns, CEO for the California Spa and Pool Industry Education Council (SPEC), calls news of the incidents "terrifying and tragic." He also says dual main drains and/or a vacuum release valve will help prevent such entrapments from becoming fatal. For spas in particular, Burns says "an automatic switch is just what the doctor ordered."

Observers note that the recent incidents further heighten the need for spa and pool builders, dealers and service professionals to address safety issues with their clients. And, as with the Tobin case, municipalities need to confirm that their pools are professionally serviced and are code-compliant.  

 

Aqua Mag. August 1999, Archive page 21

 

 

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