I received a copy of a powerful letter sent to members of the Texas State Senate and Governor Rick Perry. The Letter is from a reader whose grandson drowned last year. Shortly after his death, she discovered that her state is one of the few that have no residential pool safety laws regarding access, and she is on a mission:
Her letter is posted here so that other Texas residents can send it in, along with their support, joining Kim in her request that Texas enact legislation to better protect its children from drowning.
A Plea to Lawmakers:
My name is Kim Southerland Jacinto and I was a grandmother. I’m not anymore. Last year my two-year-old grandson, Bryan, wandered next door – through an unlocked front gate – and into the neighbor’s pool. After a desperate search he was found too late; the 93rd childhood drowning victim in Texas in 2009. It was August. There would be 20 more.
Going through the obvious grief and pain of a loss so dear, my family is doing its best to move on. But your grandchildren are supposed to bury you, so it has been hard to get past it all. Grief being what it is, and a grandmother’s love being what it is – I’ve been working hard to figure it out and more than that, actually do something. I know you are very busy, but please bear with me through the hard things I’ve learned over the year since Bryan’s death:
- Drowning is the leading cause of death for Children under six years old in Texas.
- For every child that dies from drowning, another four are hospitalized for aquatic injury – some never fully recover.
- In 2009, the 113 childhood drownings were a state record; eclipsing the average of 70.
- 2010 is on track to break the record again.
- Residential pools and spas account for over half those deaths.
- The State of Texas has no laws governing access control of residential swimming pools.
Where I live in Dallas County, laws require me to obtain a permit to build an addition on my home, to install a home security system, or to have a garage sale. I have seen neighbors receive violations for such crimes as parking with the car facing the wrong way; for putting the garbage out too early; for having the grass be too high. None of these laws “protect” us really. Sure, they help keep good order and I’m not complaining about the laws we have, but they shed a glaring light on the ones we don’t.
My neighbors can’t have grass that is too long, and have to keep their trash in the garage until trash day, but they can have a wide open deep pool of water in their backyard unguarded and unprotected and they haven’t done anything wrong.
Please know that I am not talking about blame or fault. Believe me, we have been through and continue to struggle with those awful questions. My hope, my plea really, is that I can get you to talk about solutions.
The CDC believes that four-sided pool barriers with self-closing and locking devices reduce the chance of drowning by 50-90%. There are other ways to protect pools and spas that should be discussed as possible solutions. The State of Florida gives a list of protective measures to homeowners and requires they pick two that work for them.
Last summer, the Texas State Child Fatality Review Team Committee, after extensive study on the subject, published their “Position Statement: Water Safety for Children” and in it had “Recommendations to the State of Texas and the State Legislature.” I’m begging, please take their advice. Doing so would align Texas law with laws in other states, and with recommendations from organizations like the CDC, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, experts in water safety around the world, and thousands of grieving parents and grandparents. Please; you can save lives with a pen. Pass legislation to require access control for residential pools and spas.
My grandson is gone. I hope you do all you can to save his friends.
Kim Southerland Jacinto
If you’re from Texas, please sign Kim’s petition here.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Coast Guard.