Vibrant and beautiful eleven year-old Virginia Graeme Baker (goes by Graeme) and her sisters attended a swim party at a friend’s house during the summer of 2002. During the party, Graeme was found sprawled at the bottom of the hot tub. Graeme’s mother tried to pull her up from the water with all of her strength, but to no avail. Two men took over and broke the drain pipe in order to release her body. Graeme’s body was held down by the spa’s suction drain providing her no release. Graeme died upon arrival at the hospital. Graeme was no ordinary girl, she was the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III. Her accidental death lead to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety and Spa Safety Act of 2007. This Federal Law requires that all public pools/spas be equipped with specific equipment that is intended to prevent pool/spa deaths or injuries caused by entrapment, evisceration or entanglement, i.e. ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 standards.
Suction drains can hold children down by their hair, body, limb, bathing suits and even jewelry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has found numerous swimming pool/spa suction entrapment accidents over the years leading to serious injury and death. It is unfortunate that it took the death of a beautiful seven-year-old girl to bring the matter to the public and to create safety laws.
Unfortunately, there are many public pools/spas that are not in compliance with these new safety standards. Many of those pools/spas are located in Northern California. Furthermore, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recently interpreted the 2007 law to not require back-up anti-entrapment systems in many as 150,000 public and hotel pools/spas. This has created some outrage by parents with children affected by pool/spa suction accidents.
Next time you let your children swim in a pool or a spa (especially one in a hotel or motel), be sure to check the suction drains and make sure they are ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 compliant. It could be a matter of life or death.