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June 10, 2000

Three-year-old Daniel Beltran slipped under the water in a central Phoenix apartment complex swimming pool this week, becoming the seventh child to drown in the city this year.

That's two more than in all of 1999. Firefighters worry the numbers could climb as high as they did in the 1980s, before aggressive pool safety campaigns. In 1989, 11 children drowned in Phoenix by mid-June, 15 during the whole year.

No one knows why, in a time of more regulation and pool safety programs, the numbers are rising. Almost all Valley cities require pool fences in new homes and some put restrictions on all homes where children live.

Deputy Chief Bob Khan of the Phoenix Fire Department theorizes that a warm spring led more children into the water earlier this year. By April, already five children had drowned in Phoenix.

Mesa also is having a deadlier year. So far, three people have drowned, one child and two adults. Last year, two people drowned, said Deputy Chief Mary Cameli of the Mesa Fire Department.

Cameli said that although pool safety messages may seem redundant to many longtime Valley residents, thousands of people move here each year.

More people do seem interested in pool safety, as seen in the increasing calls to the Phoenix Fire Department. Already this year, more than 80 people have called the department with pool safety concerns, such as unlocked gates and kiddie pools left in front yards. Last year, there were 144 such calls.

Khan said most of the child drownings in Phoenix this year involved unfenced or poorly fenced pools:

*A 14-month-old girl drowned at a baby-sitter's home in an unfenced pool.

*Two brothers drowned when they crawled through a doggie door in a pool fence.

*A 2 1/2-year-old girl drowned after crawling through a hole in a pool fence.

*An 18-month-old boy drowned when he fell into a pool with an open gate.

*And a 6-year-old boy drowned when he fell into a canal.

But Khan points out that barriers and ordinances can't stop all drownings. Many occur when parents are only a few feet away.

Daniel was sitting on the steps of the pool with his mother nearby, firefighters said. But the boy apparently slipped in unnoticed as the boy's mother watched several other children at the other end of the pool.

He died Friday.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Laura Trujillo
©Copyright 2000 Arizona Republic

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