The tragic death of a boy electrocuted in a North Miami swimming pool in April has raised alarm among parents — and now water safety experts are warning families to take extra caution as kids get revved up for Memorial Day weekend and summer vacation.
Calder Sloan, a vivacious and athletic 7-year-old, died April 13 after being electrocuted in his own backyard swimming pool. Police are investigating whether a faulty pool light that may have sent charges coursing through the water is to blame.
"They found the ground cable wasn't hooked up," Calder's father, Chris Sloan, told NBC News. "So, essentially, Calder became the ground. Electricity, instead of traveling to the ground, traveled through his body."
And just two weeks later, three kids — 5-year-old Danielle Gamez, her 10-year-old brother Diego, and a third child — were badly shocked in a swimming pool at a Miami-area condominium complex.
"When they grabbed onto the metal railing, that's when they got the shock and they just — they were paralyzed," Mayra Diaz, the victims' cousin, told NBC News.
City inspectors say bad wiring was the likely culprit behind the freak incident, which was captured in stomach-churning surveillance footage. Luckily, all three children survived after adults dragged their apparently limp bodies out of the water.
Cause for alarm
In the wake of these terrifying incidents, water safety advocates are calling on pool owners to take precautions.
"(You should) make sure the electrical equipment is a safe distance away from the pool and that the pool is properly maintained so there's no corrosion on the wires," Alan Korn, the executive director of the charitable organization Abbey's Hope Foundation, told NBC News.
The foundation is named for Abbey Taylor, a 6-year-old girl who died in 2008, a year after receiving injuries from an improperly maintained wading pool drain.
Chris Sloan, Calder's father, has created a website that honors his son's memory and offers key safety warnings to pool owners.
"Calder had this incredible life-force about him and we're just ... trying to get the word out to save lives. That's really what this comes down to," Chris Sloan told NBC News.
Taken too soon
In the wake of Calder's death, a family friend, Jim Cahill, suggested on Facebook that strangers take photos of themselves in different locations while holding a picture drawn by Calder — a self-portrait called "Mr. Awesome."
The drawing has since cropped up on the side of the Miami Heat's home arena and at Miami-Dade Police headquarters.
First published May 22 2014, 3:41 PM
Tom Costello is an NBC News correspondent based in Washington, DC. He reports daily for the TODAY Show, NBC Nightly News, NBC News Radio, MSNBC and CNBC. In 2013, he was the most-used correspondent on any broadcast network evening news program. His portfolio of beats includes transportation, consumer and regulatory issues, NASA, business and economics.
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Since 2005, Costello has been NBCâ€™s lead aviation correspondent. Among the major aviation stories heâ€™s covered: the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco; Air France 447 over the Atlantic; Colgan Air flight 3407 in Buffalo; Comair 5191 in Lexington; and the Miracle on the Hudson landing in 2009 for which NBC News was honored with a prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award and a National Emmy Award for Breaking News Coverage.
In 2008, Costello led NBC's Emmy award-winning coverage of the Financial Bailout Talks in Congress. But he insists his favorite stories involve ordinary people living extraordinary lives.
Former NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert brought Costello to the DC bureau in 2005. Previously, he was based at NBC News headquarters in New York.
From 1996 to 2004, Costello worked at CNBC Business News. He was on duty as CNBCâ€™s Nasdaq Correspondent in Manhattan when terrorists attacked on 9/11. From 1996-1999, he reported from London for both CNBC and NBC News, covering Europe's monetary union, the financial markets and the death of Princess Diana, among his many stories.
His assignments have taken him around the world -- from the terrorist bombings in Madrid, to the Korean DMZ, the Persian Gulf, Russia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Central America, Eastern and Western Europe.
Before joining CNBC, Costello contributed to Financial Times TV and CNN in Brussels, Belgium while also earning a master's degree. He spent six years at KUSA-TV in Denver, and two years at KVIA-TV in El Paso, TX. Heâ€™s honored to have been on the teams that have won National and Regional Emmys, a DuPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Edward R. Murrow honors, Sigma Delta Chi Awards, National Headliner honors, Best of Gannett, and Best Reporting honors from the Associated Press.
Costello holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a master's degree in Administration/International Commerce from Boston Universityâ€™s Brussels Graduate Center. He is married to Astrid Boon of Kortenberg, Belgium, and has two children.