Mother of boy who drowned an advocate for swimming pool code

BY FERDIE DEVEGA
STAFF WRITES
GAINESVILLE — Since losing her 10-year-old son in a whirlpool spa accident last month in Ocala, Donna Bucy has become an advocate for changes to the state code to prevent drowning deaths in private pools and spas.

Jordan Bucy, who got his fingers caught in the drain of his family's spa at their Ocala home, was underwater for about three minutes. After being pulled from the drain, he never regained consciousness and died three days later at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida.

Donna Bucy returned to Gainesville Monday to show her support for requirements to prevent deaths from body-part entrapment and hair entanglement in pools and spas.

They are "steps in the right direction," she said.

At a workshop at the Sheraton Gainesville Hotel, the Florida Building Commission's plumbing technical advisory committee 

unanimously approved the inclusion of a six-point subsection — titled "Entrapment Protection for Suction Inlets" — to the state code regarding new residential pools and spas.

The state Building Commission is now only two steps away from making the groundbreaking changes to the state code.

"If I understand it, we are breaking new ground in the swimming pool code in the country," said Dan Shaw, chairman of the advisory committee.

"That can be good and bad. We must make sure it's done right".

"What we do here ... may have ramifications nationally," he said. "And that's a good thing"

The changes await the approval of the Building Commission, which is scheduled to vote on the issue today. It is part of the Department of Community Affairs.

If approved by the commission, the changes would be referred to another subcommittee for clarification and would then become effective July 1, 2001.

Donna Bucy briefly spoke to advisory committee members Monday.

Dealing with the loss is "still very difficult, still very hard," she said after the meeting.

"But I know that (the changes in the state code) will save another life and have an impact on other little Jordan Bucys. He was a com passionate child with a love for life," she said. "He would have wanted it that way".

Terry Bertolami also expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the workshop. Her 7-year-old granddaughter, Brooke Oglesby, drowned in Bertolami's hot tub in 1988 after the girl's hair became entangled in the drain.

 

From 1995 to July 2000, there were 60 incidents of entrapment underwater throughout the country, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Among those, there were 10 deaths. An 11-year-old girl died from hair entanglement in a Kendall pool in July.

The new requirements are "excellent," Bertolami said.

After some discussion over the wording of the proposed changes, the advisory committee agreed to several requirements, which include the following:

All pool and spa suction inlets shall be provided with a cover that has been tested and accepted by a recognized testing facility and comply with the American National Standards Institute/American Society of Mechanical Engineers requirements for suction fittings for use in swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and whirlpool bathtub appliances, with the exception of surface skimmers.

If the suction inlet system, such as an automatic cleaning system, is a vacuum cleaner system which has a single suction inlet or has multiple suction inlets which can be isolated by valves, then each suction inlet will protect against user entrapment by either an approved anti-vortex cover - 12-inch by 12-inch grate or larger - or other means.

In addition, all pools and spas will be required to have an alter native backup system that will provide vacuum relief should grate covers be missing. Alternative  vacuum relief devices will include an approved vacuum release system approved vent piping or other approved devices or means.

A minimum of two suction inlets will be provided for each pump in the suction inlet system, separated by a minimum of 3 feet or located on two different planes, that is, one on the bottom and one on a vertical wall, or one each on two separate vertical walls. These suction inlets will be plumbed so that water is drawn through them simultaneously through a common line to the pump.

Representatives of the Florida affiliate of the National Spa and Pool Institute agreed with members of the plumbing technical advisory committee about asking the state Building Commission to create a subcommittee for ongoing review of entrapment issues. The commission approved the new committee  Monday afternoon.

"I'm very satisfied," said John Brown, marketing director for Vac-Alert Industries, Fort Pierce based manufacturer of poo1 safety equipment. The company has been pushing for the measures, or what it calls "layers of protection.

With the new requirements Brown estimated that the cost of new pools and spas may' be higher - about $1,000 or less but he and several committee members said it's a small' price to pay to prevent drowning deaths.

"The state of Florida now represents the drain safety capital of the nation. At least it will after July 2001," Brown said. "What we've done here is going to open the door to all pool and safety code throughout the United States, and that's significant".

"I know that (the changes in the state code) will save another life and have an impact on other little Jordan Bucys.  He was a compassionate child with a love for life. He would have wanted it that way."

Donna Bucy

 

The Hayward main drain and-entrapment device, right, and the anti-hair snare plus device are two tools that may be  required to be used in pools to help prevent accidents.
 

 

 

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