Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fatal Pool Lacked Safety Inspection

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fatal Pool Lacked Safety Inspection

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson, Times-Union staff writer

A swimming pool where a 3-year-old Jacksonville boy drowned this week wasn't inspected for safety features required by law, city records show.

It's one of several thousand built after the city created child-protection standards in 1989 but never checked for compliance.

It's unclear whether Hadonte Edwards' death could have been prevented by enforcing the city's laws, which lay out requirements for fences, door alarms, latches and other impediments to keep unsupervised small children away from water.

The 2 1/2-foot-tall child walked out a back door at his Arlington home unnoticed and was found in the deep end of his family's in-ground pool, which backs up to the house.

The pool had no obvious child-proofing, said Sgt. Randy Justice of the Sheriff's Office homicide unit.

"It's probably typical of 95 percent of all the pools in town," he said.

The drowning reopens questions about the safety of uninspected pools. Those built since mid-1998 have had safety inspections, but perhaps 7,500 built in the nine years before that weren't examined, and some are known not to have followed city codes.

The city's Building Inspection Division hired outside firms to check hundreds of pools in 1998, after the Times-Union disclosed they weren't examined earlier. But contracts for that work have since expired, and officials said they don't plan to check any more.

The pool at the Edwards home, on Toproyal Lane in the Rive St. Johns area, was built in 1996. A building permit for the project stayed active in inspection files until November 1998, when Division Chief Tom Goldsbury wrote it off as expired because it was old.

At the Edwards home, the city code would have required a cover over the pool or simple devices on the home's back doors -- loud alarms or automatic closing and latching devices.

Justice said he wasn't sure if the home had self-closing and self-latching doors, and that the doors had no alarms. …

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