A faulty pool light is central to the investigation of the tragic death of a 7-year-old boy who was electrocuted as he swam under the watch of a longtime nanny.
The light, a single circular beam in the deep end of the family’s Keystone Point pool, which is now empty and without power, is encased in steel that is rusted and burned.
On Sunday afternoon, a happy-go-lucky 7-year-old named Calder “Mr. Awesome” Sloan, received a severe jolt that catapulted him out of the water as he raced a friend across the backyard pool at his home.
Though detectives quickly determined Calder was electrocuted, North Miami police Maj. Neal Cuevas said the investigation is far from over.
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“We know the manner of death. We have to figure out the circumstances surrounding the death,” he said.
The family, so devastated they haven’t returned home since the child’s death, have been staying at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach. Family members shuttle back and forth to get them clothes and other needs.
Calder’s dad, Chris Sloan, returned home for the first time Thursday, looked around at all the toys, the pictures of his children, the airplane models sitting atop overflowing bookshelves, and paused.
“I think we’ll end up selling this house. I don’t think we can live here,” he said. “It was always a joy living in this house. Now it’s dark, cold.”
About nine months ago, Chris Sloan said he noticed the pool light wasn’t turning on, so the family hired a contractor to fix it. In the turmoil of dealing with Calder’s death and setting up funeral services this week, the Sloans haven’t retrieved the name of the person they hired to fix the light.
North Miami requires permits and inspections on pool electrical work that is more complicated than simply changing a light bulb, said city spokeswoman Pam Solomon. City building department records don’t indicate any permits pulled or inspections done at the Sloan home in the past year.
City electronic records that date back to 1993 don't show any electrical work done at the home. Records also indicate the home and the pool were built in 1961, though records dating back that far couldn't be retrieved by the city on Thursday. The Sloans bought the Arch Creek Terrace home in September 2009.
Chris’ brother Greg Sloan said electricians told him earlier this week that the light switch to the pool didn’t seem to be grounded properly, meaning power that should have been diverted from the pool was instead likely going directly into it. The power source could have been as much as 120 volts.
Greg Sloan said an electrician visited Tuesday to turn off power for the entire house and the pool. Later in the day, a Florida Power & Light worker arrived to turn the power back on — except for the pool’s.
On Thursday, Greg showed a videotape of who he said was the electrician who was hired to turn off the power. The man can be heard saying, “The ground is loose inside here. It is not attached to this.”
The electrician and the FPL worker declined to comment. The family could only speculate that Calder might have brushed up against the rusted light fixture.
“Somebody did not do their job,” Chris Sloan said.
Chris Sloan and his wife, Carla, were away from home, visiting friends in Miami Beach, when their son died. Calder was home with his younger brother Caleb, 5, his nanny of almost four years, and her 22-year-old son, Gary. Gary and Calder were in the pool when Gary felt a shock, leaped out and screamed for Calder to do the same.
Calder was underwater and apparently didn’t hear him.
Neighbors raced to the home and performed CPR before Miami-Dade paramedics took over. Carla Sloan received a phone call at her friend’s house and ran outside, her husband following right behind.
“I went after her. I heard her scream, ‘Is Calder dead?’ ” The family raced to Jackson North Medical Center, but they were too late.
At least two other similar tragedies in South Florida involving faulty wiring led to electrocutions of students. In 1998, 12-year-old Jorge Cabrera died at a bus shelter in Westchester, and in 2000, high school freshman Garrett Zaslow, 14, died at an Aventura tennis court.
Jorge sneaked out of his home after his mom punished him for not doing homework and said her son couldn’t watch the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. He was electrocuted by a live wire at a bus bench while on his way to a friend’s home to watch the game.
Garrett touched a receptacle box at the base of a 22-foot-high pole on an outdoor gymnasium tennis court that was determined to have a melted wire, and 400 volts raced through his body.
Now the Sloans are forced to concentrate on the burial of Calder, a sports-crazed kid who loved basketball, soccer, fishing and kayaking. The first-grader at Lehrman Community Day School in Miami Beach turned 7 last week. The family celebrated by taking Calder to a community soccer field in Midtown Miami.
“He loves soccer. He made such a big impression. He was boundless with joy and energy,” his father said. “A Calder kiss would be the greatest day of your life. He was so sweet and untainted. There’s nothing to embellish here, it’s just who he was.”
The family took out a half-page ad in the Miami Herald to celebrate Calder’s life. In one picture, he wears a crown; in another, he’s surfing in Hawaii. Donations have been pouring in to the Calder Jacob Sloan Legacy Fund, and services for Calder will take place Friday at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.
On Thursday, Calder’s clothes still hung in his closet. A small tent was set up in his bedroom next to a beanbag. Little cut-out airplanes were glued to the walls.
“He was heaven-sent,” Chris Sloan said of his son. “I’m numb. It’s very hard to cry anymore. He was simply what he was. He was Mr. Awesome.”
Miami Herald staff writer Andres Viglucci contributed to this report.