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Danger of water lurks

Single distraction can leave child alone, vulnerable

Feb. 22, 2003

Jason is 2.

He loves Elmo and his baby sister and milk in his sippy cup. The fourth of six children and the oldest boy, he is his mother's "little angel," the sweet little boy who will pat you on the back if you're crying and say, "Shhh, it's OK," before he plants a big kiss. At the dinner table, he'll urge everyone to "Come on, dance," until they do. He isn't afraid of much except the pool; he won't go in without someone holding him.

His birthday is March 24.

But he will always be 2.

Jason drowned in December in his family's backyard pool after he unlocked a door, slipped outside and fell into the water. His mother said Jason had just learned to turn a lock.

"My heart broke into a million pieces. I can't even hold back my tears right now," Georgia Booden says. "It's so hard facing that day. To look at your baby, no matter what age, and know the life that once was there is now gone kills something inside of you. Nothing else matters anymore."

Last year, 20 children drowned in Maricopa County. So far this year, a 2-year-old Phoenix boy drowned in a backyard pool in January.

"Hold your children close even if they don't like it," Booden says. "Being a parent that smothers their child is better than being a parent of a child who is gone due to an accident which could have been prevented."

Booden, 25, is a stay-at-home mom. She always kept the doors locked.

The doors were locked that day, too. Jason was in a back room when his mother went to check on the baby.

When she came back, she saw a sliding glass door open and looked to the pool.

"I saw something in the pool," Booden says. "My first thought was it was a blanket, but I knew we didn't own a blanket with those colors on it."

At the hospital, she and her husband asked to see their son.

"I walked in and saw my wonderful little man on the bed. The rest of it is too hard to say."

What she can say is that Jason was in a locked house. Kids are quick and quiet when they are up to something. Never let your guard down.

"I hope hearing our story makes them love their children more and never lose sight of them even for a second," Booden says. "Nothing matters as much as them."

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Judi Villa
©Copyright 2002 Arizona Republic

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