PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU GET IN A POOL THIS SEASON
An open letter from the family of Chris, Carla, and Caleb Sloan
on behalf of our late son, Calder
On April 13, 2014, seven days after turning seven years old, our athletic, beautiful, and loving son Calder Jacob Sloan dove into our pool for his first swim of the season. We called him Mr. Awesome due to his big heart and many talents. Calder was an excellent swimmer and could make it to the other side completely underwater while holding his breath. As he made it to the deep end his body began to convulse, he screamed, and he was electrocuted. Despite everyone’s best efforts, he could not be revived and passed away shortly after.
Investigators quickly found that our recently serviced pool light was the main culprit. Additionally, the light’s transformer was not adequately grounded. This and a confluence of related electrical protection failures were the culprits in our son’s death. As parents, we did everything we could to protect our kids and that of course, involved with our home. We paid professional contractors and major companies to do their jobs and though the investigation continues, we have found gross negligence on the part of multiple parties even to the point of determining our entire house wasn’t adequately grounded to protect our son when our defective pool light failed.
We were told shortly before the incident by two different teachers that our son Calder was going to change the world. This is happening but never in the way we would have ever envisioned. In his death Calder is saving lives by raising nationwide awareness to the dangers of poor electrical wiring in pools and homes that in our case had fatal and tragic consequences. His story has been featured worldwide on the Today Show, Good Morning America, People Magazine, The New York Daily News even The London Daily Mail. Calder’s life has been celebrated around the world in a global viral campaign called “Mr. Awesome” where Calder’s self drawn “Mr. Awesome portrait” has appeared on the Jumbotron in Times Square, with many celebrities, and everyday people wanting to spread awareness. We have been amazed at the outpouring of well wishers and good thoughts. All of these forces have come together to warn people of the dangers of their pools and home wiring to have them checked. It happened again here in Miami 2 weeks later, this time involving an ungrounded pool pump though fortunately the three children involved survived. These incidents aren’t as freak in nature or rare as many would think.
A quote from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official website states:
“CPSC is aware of more than a dozen electrocutions and a similar number of electrical shock incidents involving circuits around swimming pools between 1997 and 2002. Electrical incidents involving underwater pool lighting were more numerous than those involving any other consumer product used in or around pools, spas, and hot tubs.
The greater danger associated with electrical shock in a swimming pool is that anyone in the pool may be rendered immobile and unable to rescue themselves or to call for help. Drowning becomes a likely outcome, even if the current is not immediately lethal. Bystanders and would-be rescuers risk serious injury if the current flow isn't stopped before they make contact with a conductive fixture, such as a ladder, or enter the water to try to help a victim. Click here to read article.
This danger is not as simple as grounding your pool equipment. Even a good ground can have enough resistance to injure someone if a defective pool light fails. A major unknown culprit in these accidents is the actual pool light design. A safe design should not allow current to escape the light fixture. This hazard can occur when a pool light overheats. Although pool lights should be designed with thermal protection devices to prevent overheating, many have defective switches that do not “fail safe,” allowing the light fixture to overheat, burn the cord and electrify the underwater metal fixture. This can essentially turn your light into a force field of deadly current. Pool lights made in the last several years are at high risk because they were designed with metal shells and long cords that allow service of the bulb without draining the pool. This cord is then wrapped around the light fixture and re-submerged under water. If the fixture overheats, it can burn the insulation of the cord and electrify the entire shell. This occurs because of a defect in the light design that doesn’t shutoff the fixture if it overheats or shorts. On top of that, pool light manufacturers continue to sell 120v light fixtures in states like Florida that do not permit 120v. They warn to use a transformer but they have failed to design these lights to shutoff in the event of a failure of the transformer or accidental wiring of 120v to the fixture.
So we plead with you to consider having your home, pool, hot tub and light fixtures inspected by certified, qualified, and professional electrical inspector this year. Consider installing a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI, replacing 120 Volt lights with 12 volts, switching to fiber optic lights. Replace metal light fixtures with newer, plastic light fixtures safely designed to be operable only in low voltage or low temperature settings. We don’t want our son’s tragedy to be your tragedy. We want Calder’s death to save lives because a day you wait could be too late.
For information on fortifying, and protecting your home and outdoor pool area, go to the CPSC Website.