It sounds like an urban legend, something that supposedly happened to your cousin’s friend’s cousin. A little girl swam to the drain at the bottom of the pool, sat on it, got stuck on it, and drowned. Only this really happened, in a hot tub in McLean, Virginia, in the summer of 2002. Two grown men finally managed to pull her out, breaking the drain in the process, but it was too late to save her.
Far from being an urban legend, this sort of thing does happen. Drowning is the number two killer of children under the age of 14 in the United States. In the last twenty years, there have been almost 150 incidents of entrapment—getting stuck in a drain’s suction of a pool or hot tub—resulting in 36 deaths. Two deaths a year doesn’tseem like much in a country of 280 million people. But those 36 deaths were entirely preventable, and therein lies the tragedy.
The girl who drowned in Virginia in 2002 wasn’t just any little girl. Seven-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker—Graeme to her friends and family—was on both the swim team and the diving team. She had been swimming unassisted since age three. She was one of five sisters. And, most importantly, she was the granddaughter of Jim Baker, George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state, and a man with the influence to ensurethat what happened to Graeme would never happen again.
After three years of lobbying by Baker; his daughter-in-law, Nancy Baker; and the association Safe Kids Worldwide, Congress passed the so-called Virginia Graeme Baker Act, which then President George W. Bush signed into law on December 19, 2007.
From the point of view of homeowner associations in New England, the most important part of the legislation is this sentence: “Public pools or spas that are not in compliance by December 17, 2008, may not open for use until compliant.”