Florida leads the country in drowning deaths of children between the ages of 1 and 4, according to the Florida Department of Health. A Tampa Bay area mom is on a mission to change that statistic after her toddler Kacen tragically drowned in a friend’s pool.
“He was your typical wild, outgoing 2-year-old,” Brittany Howard told 8 On Your Side.
One day before Kacen and his twin sister turned 3, Howard’s life turned upside down.
“My life was forever changed. You wake up as a family of five and go to sleep as a family of four,” she said.
Howard had dropped Kacen off at a friend’s house with a babysitter when the unthinkable happened.
“Kacen somehow was able to open a heavy sliding glass door and bypass a defective pool fence and ultimately drowned,” Howard said.
Now she’s turning her heartbreak into a mission to ensure others don’t have to endure the same pain. She has teamed up with lawmakers including State Sen. Ed Hooper, who introduced the Kacen’s Cause Act.
“In my former time as a firefighter, I had more than one incident to have to pull a kid out of the pool that had drowned, and today it stays with me some 20 some years after retirement. It still bothers me,” Sen. Hooper (R) said.
Sen. Hooper, who represents Pasco and Pinellas counties, is now working to get other lawmakers on board.
“Florida is still number one for kids that drown under 5 years old,” he said. “If we can’t do something to stop that trend, shame on us.”
If the Kacen’s Cause Act becomes law, residential pool owners would need two pool safety measures in place, like a self-closing and latching door, a fence around the pool and/or a door or pool alarm.
Older pools would have the same requirements if the home is sold.
Until it becomes law, Howard said she will continue spreading her message through Kacen’s Cause.
“I feel I have to do this because I don’t want someone else to be sitting here doing this,” said Howard.
Cost has been a point of contention with lawmakers. But Sen. Hooper said the two cheapest options, a pool alarm and door latch, would only cost pool owners $120 total.