Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool, former Secretary of State James Baker spoke publicly for the first time about the entrapment death of his 7-year-old granddaughter.
At a news conference held in conjunction with the kickoff event for National Safe Kids Week, Baker addressed more than 150 people.
“Our hearts were really broken,” said an emotional Baker, who has served as an advisor to three presidents. “I’m here to do what I can to help see that other families are spared the devastation and the pain that can be prevented by a few very simple steps.”
Nancy Baker, the secretary of state’s former daughter-in-law, also spoke about the events that took her daughter Graeme’s life in 2002. The Baker family is backing a pool safety bill recently introduced in Congress. Both appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on May 2 to urge support of the legislation.
“If the safeguards proposed in the legislation had been in place, Graeme’s death may have been prevented,” Mrs. Baker said. “Entrapment is a very real danger. State laws must mandate the layers of protection that have been proven to save lives.”
The Bakers have said publicly that the pool and spa industry opposes safety measures. During their appearance on “Larry King Live,” they again spoke regarding a lack of safety advocacy on the industry’s part. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals responded in a written statement that it supports safety legislation and would like to work with the Baker family going forward.
The high-profile news conference drew the attention of national media and generated buzz on pool safety in the U.S. Senate.
Pool safety was the focus of this year’s National Safe Kids Week, held May 6-13. The organization conducted a research study to coincide with the event. The findings were not surprising to safety advocates. Here are some of the highlights:
• Only 34 percent of parents recognize that drowning is one of the top two causes of accidental death among children.
• More than two-thirds of parents (66 percent) are not at all or only somewhat familiar with the threat of drain entrapment and entanglement.
• Less than half of parents (42 percent) say it’s necessary to stay in visual range of a 10-year-old.
• Nearly half of American households with children (49 percent) report having a pool or spa at home.
Safe Kids Worldwide plans to support the safety legislation that was recently introduced as well.
In addition, the organization is undertaking a rigorous safety education program nationwide to educate parents and consumers about pool safety, focusing specifically on the threat of entrapment.
In the meantime, Mr. Baker plans to continue speaking out on pool safety. “Looking back, I recognize that little Graeme was an angel on loan to us for seven years,” he said.