Published Friday, July 21, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Girl catches hair in drain, drowns

Nicole Rodriguez’s brother cut her loose, but it was too late for the Arvida Middle School student.


A fish of a swimmer, 11-year-old Nicole Rodriguez couldn’t extract herself when a pool drain sucked in her shoulder-length hair and held her fast for several precious minutes.

"Her brother tried to pull her apart, but he couldn’t; he got scissors, a knife, everything" said the child’s uncle, Gilbert Ramos.

Nicole’s brother eventually cut her free, but not before the Arvida Middle School student drowned Wednesday night in Kendall, in a neighbor’s pool that converts to a hot tub.

"Even with the pump turned off, she [Nicole] wouldn’t have been able to pull her hair off, because her hair got sucked in and knotted around a plastic piece," said Miami-Dade Police spokesman Juan DelCastillo. "Her heir got tangled in those suction ports."

Off-duty Miami Police Officer Jorge Guerra, who was jogging, heard screams from Nicole’s brother and hopped the fence. Guerra performed CPR, but the girl later died at Baptist Hospital.

Her tragedy Wednesday was at least the third South Florida tragedy involving pool drains since June 1999.

"We have had several calls this year about kids caught in drains," said Eugene Jermain Jr., a spokesman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Jermain said his department does not keep statistics, but he estimates that about two children a year die when their hair or bodies get caught in filter drains.

South Florida has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of pools and water spas. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children in Florida.

"What happens when people get trapped in a pool is that their body gets snagged in the drain, and the suction from the pump sucking the water in the drain pulls their body in," said George Pellington, an engineer at Vac-Alert Industries, a Fort Pierce manufacturer of pool safety devices. His company also sells an Anti-Hair Snare filter.

"This kind of thing happens way too often,’ Pellington said.

Among the cases are at least two more in South Florida in the last 13 months.

Lorenzo Peterson, 14, nearly drowned last month when his wrist, elbow and shoulder got caught in a drain at the six-foot-deep end of a pool at the Village Apartments, 1600 NE 126th St., in North Miami. The boy’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex for negligence.

In June 19991 Jeremy Belott, 7, from northern Broward nearly drowned when he was trapped underwater in his family’s whirlpool.

Visitation for Nicole will be at 2 p.m. today at the Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Funeral Home, 11655 SW 117th Ave. Services will be held at 10a.m. Saturday at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 9500 SW 184th St.






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