Mecklenburg County closes apartment complex pool after 8-year-old drowns

by: Elsa Gillis, Glenn Counts, Paul Boyd Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mecklenburg County shut down the pool Monday at Vista Villa Apartments in east Charlotte after an 8-year-old girl drowned. 

The little girl was pronounced dead at the hospital Saturday after drowning at the east Charlotte apartment complex pool.

 

 

Emergency crews were called around 6 p.m. to the apartments in the 6300 block of Montego Drive.

[IMAGES: Two girls taken to hospital after pulled from pool]

An 11-year-old girl, sister of the 8-year-old, was also pulled out of the pool and is expected to recover.

Detectives said they are investigating the death, but at this point, foul play is not suspected.

Officials said the girls' mother was at the pool when the tragic accident happened. Police said the two girls begged their mother to let them go to the pool and said they knew how to swim. 

Officers said there were about 15 people around the pool when it happened, but according to Lorena Gonzalez, who saw the commotion, and her daughter Jocelyn, some people tried to help but couldn't swim.

"A woman tried to take out the two girls, but she couldn't take them out because she didn't know how to swim," Jocelyn said.

The names of the girls will not be released due to their ages, police said.

This isn't the first time tragedy has hit the community. About two years ago, a 4-year-old drowned in the same pool.

Residents want to see something done about it.

"They need a lifeguard there," Pete Good said. "It can't keep happening. Now another life is gone. Somebody's child is gone."

Channel 9 investigates pool's history and violations 

Mecklenburg County said it found three violations at the Vista Villa Apartments swimming pool on Monday morning, but officials do not believe the violations contributed to the death of an 8-year-old girl over the weekend.

The swimming pool passed a Mecklenburg County Health Department inspection on May 11, 2017.

An official told Channel 9 that a U.S. Coast Guard-approved ring buoy was replaced the day of the inspection in May to meet new standards and the pool was allowed to open for the summer.

After the drowning incident this weekend, county officials returned to pool and noted three other violations:

  1. Warning signs posted at the swimming pool did not have the correct verbiage required by the state.
  2. The emergency phone call back number posted at the pool phone was not the same number that the county 911 service had on record.
  3. The apartment complex pool chemical treatment program was not being recorded every week. One record also listed a high amount of a pool cleaning chemical was found in the water this month.

When Channel 9 asked if the warning signs and phone number violations were previously missed, a Mecklenburg County spokesperson said he was told "the inspector found everything in order and correct on May 11" at the swimming pool.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department said the apartment complex pool will remain closed until the violations are corrected.

The apartment is owned by an out-of-state investment company called Saratoga Capital Partners LLC and managed by Wellington Advisors here in Charlotte. They declined an opportunity to comment on Monday.

North Carolina's Division of Public Health confirmed to Channel 9 there is no state requirement for a lifeguard to be present at any public pool as long as required warning signs are posted.


Here's a list of the "Rules Governing Public Swimming Pools" controlled by the State.

  • Specific signage is required warning that no lifeguard is on duty.
  • Another specific sign is required to remind parents that children should not use the swimming pool without adult supervision.
  • Depth markings are required as are safety ropes in some cases.
  • A 12-foot pole with body hook is required.
  • A ring buoy with throwing rope is required.
  • A telephone capable of directly dialing 911 also needs to be at the pool.

There was another drowning death in the same apartment complex pool in 2015. A 4-year-old boy drowned around 8 p.m.

Channel 9 confirmed that the YMCA was at Vista Villa Apartments teaching its "Safety Around Water" program for two full weeks in June.

The program includes eight half-day classes on water safety that also teach the basics of swimming.

A source connected to program told Channel 9 that the 8-year girl did not attend any of the sessions offered by the YMCA.

"The Safety Around Water Program is completely free of charge,” YMCA aquatics director Ame Guy said.

Certified swim instructors work with the children. The program raises money year round and most recently provided free sessions to 30 different apartment complexes around Charlotte. The program has grown every year since it was introduced in 2014 but Guy cautions safety still fall on the shoulders of parents.

"The number one means of defense to prevent a drowning is parental supervision. No one will watch your children like you watch your children," Guy said

Any apartment complex interested in the free "Safety Around Water" program should contact the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

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