By: Saraana Jamraj
As police continue to investigate the death of a 2-year-old who drowned in his neighbor’s swimming pool on November 1, new developments about the house where it happened have come to light.
Kim Burgess, former executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, told local 10 that she knew the pool where the toddler drowned was an issue because it was not adequately fenced in. In a strange coincidence, she used to own the home that the boy who drowned lived in, until she sold it in April.
Speaking to Tamarac Talk, she explained that when she first moved into the Heathgate home, she invested $1,700 to build a fence in front of her house, as it was initially completely open and left the pool exposed to the entire neighborhood.
However, her backyard was still connected to another yard, where the drowning occurred, and they did not have proper fencing—she knew this was a hazard.
According to Florida Health, the state leads the country in drowning deaths of children 1-4 years old and has the second-highest rate among children ages 1-14.
“It’s something we’ve been beating our heads against the wall for 30 years trying to figure out how to stop this,” said Burgess.
As someone whose life’s work was dedicated to preventing drowning tragedies, Burgess knew the dangers of unsecured pools, and repeatedly contacted Tamarac city officials to warn them and have the issue addressed and the code enforced.
Elise Boston, city spokesperson, told the outlet that the city addressed the issue, but that the homeowners did not comply by replacing the fence, and that they were subsequently fined $150 per day, beginning January 18, 2019.
As they never addressed the issue, they currently owe over $25,000. At this time, the homeowner has not paid and has hired a lawyer to represent them as they prepare to face the public and await the results of Broward Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the death on their property.
Burgess told Tamarac Talk that this was a preventable tragedy and that she and her colleagues still struggle to convince people of the seriousness of the issue, despite the statistics.
“How do you get people to think responsibly? How do you get people to think that backyard pools aren’t just a place for barbecues, but they’re a death trap? I don’t know,” said Burgess.
Burgess said that in other cases of child death, adults are held accountable—such as when children are left in cars or find loaded weapons.
“If you leave a gun out, and a child gets ahold of it, you’re responsible for that child’s death. So, when you leave a pool completely exposed, what’s the difference?” said Burgess.
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.
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