Every summer, preventable tragedies occur when it comes to small children and pools. This summer, little Edward Harris of Staten Island was the latest casualty in pool-related drownings.
Edward was in the care of his step-grandfather, mother and others at the small daycare center they worked at when he was able to slip away and get into the above-ground pool at the back of the center. His mother found him just minutes later, floating face-down in the pool. She rescued him, but it was too late — he was already unconscious, and died shortly thereafter.
In New York, the laws regarding pool fencing are fairly stringent following the death of Alysa Orzolick, 13 years ago in Tonawanda, NY. She had wandered off and fell into an inground pool that had no outdoor fencing. In her memory, a law was passed which required any daycare providers with pools to have four foot high, locked outdoor fences.
In this particular case, it appears that the daycare did everything it could to abide by current laws. The pool was fenced and locked at the time of the incident, and law enforcement has said that they regard the death as accidental. It appears that Edward had climbed onto boxes in order to get over the fence and into the pool area — highlighting for other parents the dangers that can exist even when all the fence installation rules have been followed.
The daycare’s owner, Sherrie Byrd, has had no recent violations, and the site was last inspected this December. Many of the day care’s clients have responded to the media, saying that they would still bring their children to the center. They agree that the death was a tragic accident that was not easily preventable. “I’m going to continue bringing my kid here because they have the best interests of my kid,” said one mother, who went by the name of Keisha.
New York’s fencing laws for pools cover both public and private pools. As noted, pool fences must be self-closing and lock. A swimming pool alarm might be required, which indicates accidental access by children or animals. It was unclear whether Byrd’s daycare had this type of alarm. These alarms are required for pools constructed after December 2006. All pool fences must be at least four feet high. Temporary fences can be used, but need to be replaced by a permanent pool fence within 90 days.