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2.25.19 – WTSP.com- Jenny Dean

TAMPA, Fla. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drowning kills more kids ages 1-4 than anything else except birth defects.

CDC data shows about 4,000 people drown each year in the U.S.

It’s a shocking statistic made worse because it is preventable.

A Hillsborough County mom knows that painful fact all too well. Brittany Howard says her son Kacen was a typical 2-year-old boy.

“Kacen was a crazy, wild boy who never sat still,” Brittany Howard said.

His dad says he was always getting into some sort of mischief with his twin sister Kaedence.

“He always said, ‘sissy did it. Sissy did it.'” her dad said.

Tragedy struck on the day before the twins’ third birthday.

“On Sept. 28, 2017, I was going to run errands with my girlfriend,” Howard said. “We left the twins my son and daughter with an adult at her home.”

Howard said she then got a phone call that there was an accident and Kacen was being taken to the hospital.

“I guess he had opened the very heavy sliding glass door and he bypassed the weak, defective pool fence and he ended up in the pool drowning,” Howard said.

Howard says it was Kaedence who found her brother in the pool.

“It was too late and he was gone,” Howard said.

In her grief, Howard began looking for answers, instead of anger. She wondered why more safety measures aren’t required for home pools.

Current state law Florida Statute Title XXXIII chapter 515 was passed in 2000, and only requires one safety measure be put in place on newly-constructed pools. It means all the pools that existed before 2000 have no safety requirements. Howard was shocked.

“It’s not regulated, it’s not inspected, it’s not checked,” Howard said.

So she and her best friend April came up with Kacen’s Cause Act. They hope to get the law changed to have any combination of two safety measures in place for all new and existing home pools, like a fence and pool alarm, or door alarms and a pool alarm. Howard says those requirements would then be checked by an inspector every time a home is sold or changes hands.

“I don’t want any other families to have to endure the pain we are, Howard said. “I don’t want siblings to ever have to witness their brother or sister’s final moments of life the way my daughter had to with her best friend her twin brother the only thing she ever knew.”

Kacen’s Cause Act is a bipartisan bill that is currently being considered by a Florida Senate committee.

Here are a few quick stats for you to consider:

  • 11 children drowned in Hillsborough County last year. That’s more than any other county in Florida.
  • The number of child drowning deaths in Florida was 88 last year, up 7 percent from the prior year.