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Nancy Baker lost her 7 year-old daughter to suction entrapment. Now an advocate, she is forcing the pool and spa industry to do more to address this deadly hazard.

By Shabnam Mogharabi Most days, it's the one image that Nancy Baker can't seem to shake: Her 7 -year-old daughter, Virginia Graeme Baker, is trapped underwater. Her eyes are closed and her arms are moving lifelessly with the current.

In a few minutes on a sunny summer day in 2002, Graeme, as she is known, passed away. The tragic incident occurred despite her mother's desperate attempts to free her body. She was a victim of suction entrapment, a cause of violent injury and/or death that has plagued the pool industry.

"My daughter never should have died," says the 48-year-old mother of five. "It's catastrophic when a child dies in any way, all the more so when it's preventable.

"I believe that every person is humane enough to know the right thing to do," Nancy adds. "I believe that about the industry, government, homeowners and pool owners. People would not want this to happen."

Like most parents who have suffered a heart-wrenching loss, Nancy still feels the sting of her daughter's absence. Graeme (pronounced "Graham") often is her first thought in the

Pool & Spa News March 27. 2006 www.poolspanews.con

 

morning and 1ast one at night. But unlike most parents who have lost a child, Nancy is armed with a potent weapon: notoriety. Graeme's grandfather, Nancy's ex-father-in-law, is  former Secretary of State James Baker III.

By using her family's political clout and influence, Nancy aims to keep Graeme's death from being in vain. In the short time since she lost her little girl, Nancy has evolved from victim to healer to spokesperson and now an activist, forcing action where others have failed. Working with Safe Kids Worldwide, as well as in close proximity with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), she is determined that no other family suffers the same fate. Meanwhile, the pool and spa industry, while sympathetic to Nancy's loss, says it is working continually to improve anti-entrapment standards, and the current measures being advocated, if implemented, will solve the problem.

The horror

Nothing in Nancy's life prepared her for the events of June 15, 2002. Born in Texas to a family of five children, Nancy moved

 

to Connecticut as a teenager and married James Baker IV in 1982. In Washington, D.C., she worked in interior design, specializing- in painted finishes. Eventually, she and her husband had five daughters - Rosemary, Hallie, Mary Stuart, and twins Jackie and Graeme.

In the four years since the tragedy, Nancy has learned to tell her story in a measured tone. Still, she pauses several times to compose herself, sometimes forgetting her next word and breaking into tears.

"My oldest daughter was graduating from high school and we were invited to several parties that Saturday," she says. "This one was actually a pool party, and my youngest girls were in the water with the other children. I was talking to the hostess when I saw Mary Stuart, who was then 11, running toward me. Her eyes were like saucers. She said, 'Mommy, Mommy, Graeme's in the hot tub.'

"I raced behind her to the hot tub, which was on, but I couldn't see anything. 1 kept saying, 'What? Where?' And her twin kept saying, 'Graeme's pretending.

 

 

 

 

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