Kid Drownings

After decades of failure, the well-intentioned still don't get it

Her mother refuses to let the nurses cut her long, thick, wavy hair, and the nurses take turns braiding or styling it. Today, it is put into a series of trendy ponytails on top of her head, secured with pink rubber bands to match her bright pink outfit. Soft curls frame her porcelain face and twirl down her pink cheeks. Tara is beautiful, even when you look down at the rest of her.

Her muscles have atrophied to such an extent that they are pulling upward. Her feet and legs have curled up and the bones have followed, leaving almost hooklike limbs. Her hands hold folded white towels because the muscles want to pull the finger bones and nails right through her pink palms. A towel is also placed between her knees so that the force of the leg muscle pulling them toward each other does not damage what is left of her knee cartilage. Tara has developed severe scoliosis from being confined to a chair or bed for so long. Her entire body now fits into the seat of her wheelchair.

Martinez does not know how long Tara will live. "Her family has been great. They really care so much about her, even now. She could stay with us for a long time, but it's hard to tell."

Steve Satterwhite
Channel 10's Dave Munsey spearheaded the media's drowning-prevention effort in 1980.
Channel 10's Dave Munsey spearheaded the media's drowning-prevention effort in 1980.

Martinez says that people don't realize how much damage can be done and how soon. "People know that it just takes a few seconds, but they don't know that it only takes three minutes to lose the child, whether they live or not. Just three minutes."

In the city of Phoenix, it is fairly standard procedure to bring a house up to code before it is sold, but it is not mandatory. According to B.A. Waitman, a Phoenix real estate agent, the items that usually come up for review are major appliances, roofs, termite inspection, and other similar repairs, which might put new residents at risk. But inspectors do not even look at the state of the pool or fencing.

"Maryvale pools were built prior to the fencing and barrier codes being adopted. There are no laws governing sellers or landlords regarding this issue," she states.

Sharon Marksbury, the Greathouse boys' great-great-aunt, has seen this tragedy three times in her family already. A fire department employee for 25 years, Marksbury has seen a niece's 2-year-old, and now her grandniece's two boys, drown. "I used to say it can't happen to me. . . . There's nothing you can do to tell people what it's like -- it's like trying to give children your knowledge."

She remembers the boys' funeral, where the brothers were buried together, arms around each other, wearing baseball caps.

"The landlord didn't want to do anything to fix the pool, even though she knew there were kids there. And they [the Greathouse family] can't afford to put in a fence." After the boys drowned, Marksbury says that the landlord filled in the pool.

According to Waitman, the cost of replastering a pool is about $2,500, and various fencing companies have quoted $1,000 to $2,000 to install an adequate barrier, depending on what type of fence is built. This cost could be figured into a home loan for $20 to $50 extra per month on the mortgage, depending on how much repair work needed to be done. The buyer or seller, depending on the sale agreement, could foot the cost of the repair for a minimal increase in a monthly mortgage payment, or minimal cost to the seller than could be incorporated into the price.

FHA loans also allow for some types of home repair to be figured into the mortgage agreement, but the pool isn't on the FHA's inspection list. According to mortgage broker Sandy Coates, FHA loans allow for the incorporation of small amounts such as pool repair at the request of the buyer.

"As long as the improvement is written in the original offer and is done before closing, it would be allowed," says Coates. "FHA is particularly anxious to include anything that would improve the safety of the house, both with the repair to the pool and putting in a fence."

According to Waitman, landlords will usually offer a waiver to the tenant and leave the decision of whether to put in a fence up to them. "Again, 99 percent of the landlords don't care and will not pay the expense to fence the pool or provide door alarms or other barriers," says Waitman.

If the City of Phoenix wanted to tackle this problem in the Maryvale zip code, it would to have to find a way to enact ordinances with a bit more teeth than what is currently in place.

Mayor Skip Rimsza's office declined to comment on the viability of more stringent pool codes, instead referring queries to the Phoenix Fire Department. A caller placed on hold by Rimsza's office listened to a public service announcement about water safety.

Beyond the city governments, there is also the possibility of state-mandated legislation requiring universal codes for pools. This would usurp the cities' individual rights to opt out of fencing ordinances, like in the case of the city of Gilbert. In Gilbert, if there are no children in the house at the time the pool is built, no fence is required. The state does not require that one be put in when the house sells.

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Diane Moore
Diane Moore

The solution to this is soooooo simple, yet seems to be too much trouble for these parents. All they have to do is WATCH their children... and be sure they are taught safety in and around water. My grandbaby is 2 1/2 years and can swim like a fish. He is just finishing an ISR Swimming course this week... I do NOT believe in fences, they give false security. I raised 5 extremely active (and sometimes naughty) children without a fence around our pool, and they are all grown up now... I can appreciate that parents are busy sometimes, but it only takes a few seconds to safely strap a baby/toddler in their high chair, or put a baby in their crib or playpen... and KEEP the doors and windows locked. When my grandbaby visits our home, I wear the key to the backyard around my neck... so I know its locked. Also, I am aware of where he is EVERY single second while he is in my care. Thats all there is to it.

Susan Freyer
Susan Freyer

Don't you sleep? Ever? Children get out when parents and children are supposedly sleeping. It happens. But yeah. It's sooooooo simple.

David Stone
David Stone

Or maybe it's the shitty parents who are having too many kids? Jesus Christ, you fucking Arizona idiots make me sick.


were u with my cousin when this happened? what was her reaction? where was steven ( her Husband) or clifford? what did she say? i dont mean to bother you or bring up something unpleasent but i have heard it was no accident what happened to the boys. and i am trying to find out the truth

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