Swimming is such an integral part of summers in South Florida. Each year thousands of families will suffer swimming tragedies that could have been prevented by following the proper safety precautions.
On April 8, 2014, Harmani and Harmony West, twin 2-year-old girls wandered out of their Deerfield Beach apartment, entered the pool area through an unlocked gate, fell in the water and drowned before their parents could find them. Installing a self-locking gate could have prevented this devastating tragedy.
After all, enclosing a pool with fencing and gates that close automatically is one of the best precautions to drowning. But that's not necessarily the case for apartment communities built prior to 2004. The state legislature decided to exempt commercial pools constructed prior to 2004 from these simple, low-cost safety requirements.
If you live in an older South Florida apartment building, you cannot assume that the pool area is safe. Our firm represented the family of a 7-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy who suffered a severe electrical shock on April 27, 2014, while playing in a pool at an aging Hialeah condominium complex. Fortunately, their parents were able to pull them from the pool. The city of Hialeah's chief electrical inspector concluded that the cause was “deficient wiring to the pool pumps” and put the blame on “poor maintenance practices, combined with electrical work performed without permits.”
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If you are living in an apartment or condominium complex, there are several steps you can take to protect your child. Conduct your own inspection of the swimming area, paying attention to the gates, fencing, or other hazardous conditions. See if there are life preservers or safety poles within reach in the event of an emergency. If you are concerned, talk with the landlord and gather the support of other parents. Put all of your complaints in writing. Take a swimming class or CPR course so that you could help if necessary.
Finally, I encourage you to be a vocal advocate for stronger pool safety requirements. Let your legislators know that nothing is more important than the lives of children. Let's stop these tragedies now.
Andrew B. Yaffa, Coral Gables