RICHARDSON — New attention is being focused on the potential danger of swimming pool drains after R&B superstar Usher nearly lost his son Monday afternoon.
Police in Atlanta said Usher Raymond V fell to the bottom of a pool where he "became stuck in the drain," prompting a frantic 911 call by the boy's aunt.
The five-year-old remains in the hospital and is expected to recover, but he is not alone.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says 39 people have been injured or killed by a drain accident since 2008.
Bill Winter of Aqua Gem Pool Care said he sees the danger all too often. "This is what you call an old-style pool drain cover," he said, looking into the bottom of a backyard pool. "If there's a lot of suction in that, it's real easy for... especially a child... to get stuck."
The force of the suction can be so powerful that weight and age do not matter.
"An adult can get stuck on that," Winter said. "You can get stuck to the point that you are not going to be able to come up."
Winter said most of the spas he maintains have anti-entrapment covers. But when it comes to the residential pools he services, only one out of 32 offers such protection.
"It tells me people are not aware, or don't care," he said.
The fix is inexpensive — around $100 for the safety drain cover and installation. The pool does not have to be drained.
"I'm going to replace it," said homeowner Dorothy Christensen, whose pool has one of the dangerous covers. "I was always going to replace it, but it wasn't urgent to me because it was the deep end in the pool."
Winter wants other families to do the same. "I hope it gets people to think about what they've got in the pool," he said. "Maybe a second thought: 'Let's replace the drain cover.'"
Pool owners should know where the off switch for the pump is located. That way, if someone does become stuck in the drain, cutting the power will stop the suction.