Aug 252010

A five year old boy drowned in a golf course pond on Tucson’s southeast side Thursday.

A man called Pima County Sheriff to report that his son was missing about 12:30 p.m. Twenty minutes later, deputies found five year old Zachary Clark in a nearby pond on the Santa Rita Country Club and Golf Course.

Deputies performed CPR until EMT’s arrived and the boy was airlifted to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

By Friday, the question was being asked, should golf courses, even private ones, fence in ponds and water features scattered throughout their courses?

Tucson city courses are fenced in, preventing children or anyone else from getting to their water hazards.

Santa Rita is a private club.

“If there was a fence around the pond, it would probably have saved the child’s life,” says Todd Cupell, a captain with the Corona de Tucson fire department.

One neighbor, Kim Wilson, quickly constructed a small sign after the boys death saying “fence in the pond.”

“It needs to be done for the future. It’s a real safety issue,” he says.

“I don’t want the pond fenced in,” says another neighbor, Bill Hower, who lives across the street.

“It doesn’t solve the actual problem which is the parents should know where their children are and be responsible,” he says.

It’s a dilemma which Corona de Tucson could face again.

In the past 15 years, it has grown from a retirement community to a family community with two new schools.

Cupell says the drowning may change the approach of the fire department.

“We’ll educate, educate, educate and with the education comes the change,” he says.

One of the elementary schools is just down the street from the open pond.

We are told there have been complaints from the golf course that the children have been using it as a shortcut to get home or a place to play.

And the neighbors agree the children use it from time to time.

“There are a few of them that go over there and put their feet in the water or swim in it a little bit,” says Hower.

Pima County Supervisor Rich Elias says it would not be feasible to require fencing around private courses because many times their meander through neighborhoods.

But he believes there could be some rules when it comes to water hazards on the courses.

“Maybe it’s time we take a look at an ordinance,” he says.

He calls the incident a “real tragedy” and believes children need to be protected from water hazards.

The city and county both have laws which require homeowners to put fencing and other barriers up to keep children out of swimming pools and they are on private property.

But so far, there are no laws which require fencing on golf courses.

“There’s evidence which shows barriers around pools saves the lives of children,” says Cupell.

“As a five year old, and as most of us, I’m sure he was just drawn to water and the fish and turtles,” said neighbor Dee McAlpine before she became emotional. “My thoughts are with his family.”

Corona de Tucson Fire District said that this is the first drowning that they have had.

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