Girl, 8, drowns due to hair entanglement

 By Gwendolyn Crump --Bee Staff Writer -(Published July J7, 2004)

A baby sitter did all she could do in an attempt to free a drowning 8-year-old girl whose hair had become caught in a swimming pool's filter system, Elk Grove police said Friday

"The intake was too powerful for the baby sitter to free her," said Sgt. Sean Corcoran.

The girl was identified as Haven Scarborough by the Sacramento County Coroner's Office.

The incident occurred about 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the 8800 block of Southside Avenue. When Fire Department personnel arrived, someone was already giving the girl CPR, said Kristyn Staby, a spokeswoman for the Elk Grove Community Services District.

The girl was taken to Methodist Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 4:07 p.m., Corcoran said. She had been underwater for at least three minutes.

The 22-year-old baby sitter was watching the girl and her 10-year-old sister swim, Corcoran said, but when the 8-year-old's shoulder-length hair became stuck, the baby sitter was not able to pull the girl from the water.

The house with the pool is vacant, but the owner of the property -who also owns the home rented by the girls' family -gave them permission to swim there, police said.

The owner, Hemant Prasad, declined to comment Friday.

Statistics were not available on drowning by entrapment in pools and spas, but it has become a growing concern.

In 2002, a 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker drowned when she became trapped in a pool drain in Virginia. It took two adults to free her.

In 1997, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards was the attorney for an 8-year- old girl who had been injured three years earlier by the suction drain of a wading pool. It had ripped out most of her intestines. The $25 million award was the largest judgment in North Carolina history.

Donald Burns, president of the California Spa and Pool Industry Education Council, said incidents like Thursday's are not uncommon.  Defective covers on pool drains are usually the culprit," Burns said.

Covers are required on all pools, he said, but are only inspected on public pools. Burns said residential pool owners often put off making repairs or taking necessary precautions.

Corcoran said the two intakes of the drain appeared to be intact and covered.

A law that went into effect last year requires new swimming pools and spas to have at least two circulation drains per pump to protect against physical entrapment.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is scheduled to present recommendations for guidelines related to entrapment at a hearing July 28 in Phoenix, said Paul Pennington, managing member of Vac-Alert Industries, which manufactures pool safety equipment.

"Unfortunately new regulations affect only new swimming pools," Pennington said.

He said all pools should be equipped with a safety drain, a cover that meets national standards, as well as dual drains and a safety vacuum release system as the backup to prevent entrapment.

Katie Beardsley said she was working in the Flash Yogurt and Rainbow Snow shop on Elk Grove Florin Road on Thursday when several boys came rushing up.

"Neighborhood boys were yelling to call 911," she said. "We tried to give CPR." Someone cut the girl's hair with a knife, Corcoran said, but it was too late.




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