Drowning is accidental, while pool laws are scarce - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drowning is accidental, while pool laws are scarce

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

July 29, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An apartment complex swimming pool where a Florida teen drowned Monday is now closed for the rest of the season.

Seventeen year old Raheem Gillon was found dead on the bottom of the pool at Westwind Apartments on Dawson Road late Monday afternoon. A friend told police the Crescent City, Florida teen said he was going swimming around four o'clock. Gillon's brother later told police that Gillon couldn't swim, but sometimes got into the shallow end of pools.

When Gillon didn't return, a friend found him at the bottom of the nine foot deep end of the pool. The friend pulled him out, and started CPR, but Gillon was dead. The coroner has ruled his death accidental drowning.

That death is the second pool drowning in south Georgia in the last four days and Albany's third drowning this year. Georgia has few laws regulating swimming pools. Laws are more extensive when it comes to commercial pools and recreational water parks, but back yard pools or pools at apartment complexes, well there are very few requirements for them. Dougherty County has more than 1,701 of those pools.

A pool in the backyard maybe every homeowners dream. Especially when south Georgia's temperatures climb. Here in Georgia there's not much a homeowner has to do to comply with state law if they put a pool in.

"The law states that you have to have a fence, the fence has to be at least four feet in height, minimum, it can be taller than that, but it has to be a minimum of four feet in height, and you can't have any openings in the fence larger than four inches," said ray Hinman, owner of Hinman Pool & Patio.

Besides having that four foot tall self locking fence here in the state of Georgia's there's not a whole lot more that homeowners has to do to keep their pools safe and some say that's just fine.

"I don't think they do, I mean that's my feeling," said Hinman.

For apartments and condos the rules are a little tougher. They're required to post pool rules, have and maintain safety equipment, have a rope that marks off the shallow from the deep, but sometime that's not enough to prevent a tragedy.

"My worst nightmare happened," said Donna Wiegand, WestWind Apartments Manager.

Despite the Westwind Apartments best attempts at safety a visitor drowned Monday. In addition to following the state's rules they go a step further and require pool users to have a pass and for guests to register so they know when to keep extra eyes on the pool.

"I need to know if your guest are here and, when they're here, and you need to be with them, especially if they can't swim," said Wiegand.

Homeowners can take safety a step further by putting in a pool alarm, that sounds within seconds of someone falling in a pool, and loud enough for the neighbors to hear.

The American Red Cross says if you're going to go in a pool then you should learn how to swim and those who can't should never be left unsupervised.

For more information about Georgia's Swimming Pool Laws, you can contact Georgia's Department of Human Resources Public Health Office.

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