A Florida toddler became entrapped in a condominium pool on Aug. 24, prompting headlines across Miami news outlets, along with a slew of misinformation.
During a swim lesson in Key Biscayne, Fla., the 3-year-old girl had her arm entrapped in the pool’s vacuum line. As the child’s parents took turns keeping her head above water, rescuers chiseled into the deck and cut the pipe so the girl could be released, her arm still encased in piping.
Yet even though the pool’s main drains were not involved in the incident, the topic of drain covers somehow became the focal point of many news stories.
“They kept saying ‘main drain,’ and I kept saying to myself, ‘There’s something not right with this picture,’” said Joel Cohen, principal at All Florida Pool & Spa Center. “I hate to think about what other stories I read out there that have misinformation, but this one was really done wrong.”
Despite live video coverage of the incident, headlines such as “Key Biscayne Pool Accident Highlights the Need for Drain Covers” and “Child Rescued from Pool Drain” peppered the home pages of local news Websites over the next 48 hours.
Even follow-up reports claimed the girl’s arm was entrapped by the pool’s skimmer.
“The makers of the skimmers where the vacuum is plugged in need to make covers, so that children can't stick their hands in there,” Miami Fire-Rescue spokesman Peter Gomez told the Miami Herald.
But, of course, vacuum lines would be rendered ineffectual with a drain cover.
However, state code does mandate that vacuum lines are covered by spring-loaded safety caps. The condominium pool had a missing cap and a valve that was inexplicably left open during occupancy hours.
“If it had [a cap] in place, nothing would have happened,” said Steve Bludsworth, owner of All-Pool Service & Supply in Orlando, Fla. “It’s kind of like if somebody left an electrical plate off an electrical outlet and got shocked.”
Still, because of misinformation, media coverage inevitably invoked the enforcement of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, which Florida’s Department of Health has delayed until November.
“There are hundreds of accidents every year where children drown in pools, and states that are resisting enforcing the Virginia Graeme Baker Act are essentially putting the public at risk,” Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz told “ABC News” in light of the accident.
While it is unknown whether the pool was fully compliant with the federal law, it was noncompliant with state code, illustrating the need for a broader scope of awareness regarding pool safety.