10 Investigates: Backyard Pools Pose a Hidden Danger To Youngsters

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UPDATED: Wednesday July 16, 2014 12:23 AM

10 Investigates reveals new information about a problem killing local kids: drownings that are claiming the lives of toddlers.

For decades, a Columbus home and the pool behind it served as a summer gathering spot for family and friends.

But then in June, the hangout became the place of heartbreak. Two-year-old Isaiah Richards had quietly fallen into the water.

A 911 call captured the tense moments.  “(There’s a) little boy in the pool. My dad pulled him out and gave him CPR,” the caller states.

Theresa Cramer is a family friend and registered nurse. She started CPR after little Isiah was pulled from the water.  “I was out of (my) mind. I had a baby that I know and love on the concrete, lifeless.”

Theresa had known Isiah, or “Ya-Ya,” as the family calls him, since he was born.  “He had just the cutest little voice and had just the cutest little way of looking up at you,” Cramer recalls.

Theresa performed chest compressions on Isaiah, but was unable to save the child.  She says a piece of her heart broke on that day.

Cramer and police reports say the accident happened because Ya-Ya slipped away from his mother during a family gathering. It's not clear how long the boy had been out of sight. But it is clear he made it past the fence that surrounds the pool on all sides.

10 Investigates wanted to know, how often do central Ohio kids get too close to the water and can parents do more to prevent drownings?

Investigative reporter Paul Aker researched those drownings reported by 10TV and other news outlets since 2012. 10 Investigates also searched state Health Department records and police reports, focusing on deaths involving kids aged 12 or younger. We discovered that in 8 out of 10 cases, the location of the drowning was a backyard pool.

10 Investigates also found gaps in police reports. Officers often failed to note whether pool owners were using proper safety practices, some of which, are surprising.

It turns out that a fence around the backyard is not good enough. Experts recommend a fence that totally surrounds the pool and separates it from the home.

Dr. Gary Smith, Director for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Childrens' Hospital, says the research is clear.  “The only way to prevent access to the water is to have a fence that completely encloses the pool.  A house on one of those sides and a fence around the other three sides simply isn't enough.”

Smith says there is another must: a self-shutting, self-locking gate.

Even though the pool Ya-Ya fell into had the right kind of fence, it had a chink in the armor; a gate that did not self-latch.  That’s something Theresa Cramer says she and the family have discussed purchasing following the boy’s tragic death.

In the wake of Ya-Ya’s drowning, Cramer has just one message for parents:  “Get a gate, have a fence. Keep those little ones out.”

10 Investigates also looked at all Central Ohio drownings since 2012 and found backyard pools pose the greatest local threat.

As one tragedy reveals, there's more to prevention than you might think.

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