Recently, an unusual, non-fatal entrapment garnered press attention around the country.
The incident took place at the Greeley Family Funplex, a recreation
center in Greeley, Colo. A 31-year-old woman was lounging on her
abdomen in an approximately 6-inch-deep beach entry area of the
pool when her belly ring became stuck in the large, unblockable
The jewelry had chains hanging from it, which became wedged between
the slats of the Strongwell Dura Grid grating, according to
officials at the facility.
"Unfortunately, once they fell through, they rotated, and it was
difficult to release the participant from the grate without
injuring her,” said Phil Moya, recreation program manager at
Greeley’s Culture, Parks and Recreation Department.
When lifeguards couldn’t free the woman, the local fire
department was called. The rescue personnel had facility staff
drain the area, then proceeded to remove the drain cover, with the
woman still attached.
“They got her to the side of the pool and actually had her
lay across two chairs face down, with the grate hanging in
between,” said Dale Lyman, division chief/fire marshal of the
Greeley Fire Department. “Then they were able to get
underneath and work at pushing the ring up and back through how it
had come in, from the opposite direction.”
The woman sustained no injury. “It was never a
life-threatening situation,” Lyman said.
The facility has been compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool
and Spa Safety Act for two years, Moya said. In addition to
changing out the drain covers, the facility also was required to
install diffusion hoods in certain sumps to create enough clearance
between the suction pipe and the drain cover.
The incident qualified as a mechanical entrapment, defined as an
instance where an item such as a bathing suit strap or jewelry
becomes stuck on the drain or other component, with or without the
aid of suction, thus tethering the person. From 1999 to 2009, the
Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 13 such incidents, one
However, some aquatics experts report that the true number
isn’t known because non-fatal incidents can easily go
unrecorded. “With clothes, it’s on the ... sides, like
the vacuum lines or equalizer lines on the skimmer,” said
Alison Osinski, president of Aquatic Consulting Services in Avalon,
Calif. “But with jewelry, I’ve heard about necklaces
and rings [getting stuck] on the bottom [of the pool],” she said.
Moya said the city of Greeley is reviewing its policies to
determine if any changes are needed to prevent such incidents in
the future. Because the pool complies with federal law, he added,
no modifications are expected to be required. “We will
continue to keep up with the industry standards, and if there are
any recommendations or requirements to change the drain covers, we
will address them,” Moya said.
The local press treated the incident as a cautionary tale for those
with piercings. “I’m not sure some people realize the
potential risks,” Lyman said. “They really need a
heightened awareness of that jewelry when they’re wearing
Other issues have come up as well. One professional formerly
involved in writing the drain-cover standard raised the question of
the size of the openings that are allowed. “It’s a huge
concern to me,” said Ron Schroader, principal of
Drainsafe/New Water Solutions in Lake Worth, Fla. “If you
have openings in a cover that jewelry can get pulled into —
or bathing suit strings or anything like that — that’s
a bad thing.” He would like to see openings small enough to
block military dog tags from getting through.
To comply with the suction fitting standard, ANSI/APSP-16,
drain covers must pass a test that uses a device meant to represent
a small child’s finger. If the device goes through the
openings, then the drain cover fails.
However, if the holes were made too then, pools might not achieve
the flow rates needed to properly treat the water, said Steve
Barnes, product manager, safety and compliance for Pentair Aquatic
Systems, and chairman of the APSP Technical Committee.
Another issue revolves around whether to have suction outlets in
shallow water at all. That is being addressed in the revising of
another standard — ANSI/APSP-7 Standard for Suction
Entrapment Avoidance. Though far from completion, the current
draft language states that there should be no submerged suction
outlets in wading pools.
“If ANSI-7 gets approved as currently written, going
forward, in new construction we wouldn’t have these
things,” Barnes said.