Fearing that their son could one day fall into his babysitter's swimming pool, the parents of Jasper Ray St. Claire instructed that the toddler not be taken to her house.
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But on March 19, they said the babysitter took the 1-year-old boy to her home anyway. Then his mother received a panicked phone call and immediately got the sense she had lost her son.
“She was hysterical, I couldn't understand her at first,“ said the mother, Julie Lopiccolo. “I said, ‘You need to tell me what happened.’ And she said, ’I found him in the pool.’ And I just knew at that moment that it was not good.”
A week later, St. Claire died in the hospital, becoming one of six drownings in Orange County since January.
The common theme is that an adult swam alone or a child was unattended, said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority.
The boy’s family has started a foundation to educate pool owners about safety.
“Keep your eyes on your children, it’s the only 100 percent guarantee that something like this wouldn't happen to you,” said the boy’s father, Jonathan St. Claire.
The owner of Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin, however, said there are no guarantees when it comes to children around the water.
“There's always risk,” Johnny Johnson said. “It can be recognized, it can be reduced and it can be managed, but it can never be totally eliminated. So the term pool-safe or water-safe really doesn’t apply here.”
Johnson suggests owners isolate the pool, assign a person to watch constantly and be prepared to respond.
St. Claire’s parents don't know all the details of their son's death. They said he loved the alphabet, loved to eat spicy foods and that he would have celebrated his second birthday on Monday.
“We don't get to celebrate his birthday, we don’t get to celebrate any birthdays from now on,” Lopiccolo said.