Questions raised about oversight of abandoned pools after 2 kids nearly drown


Residents and pool safety advocates are asking a lot of questions about pool inspections and safety following an incident at an abandoned pool in St. Paul that left a 7-year-old boy in critical condition.

Meantime, a young man who lives in the same apartment complex captured the boys' rescue attempt on video, and shared it with KSTP.

Sher Kpor, 7, had climbed over the locked fence around the pool at the Princeton Place apartments in St. Paul Monday and fell into the murky, trash-filled water, reports say. His brother, 10-year-old Ma Kpaw, crawled under the fence and, in attempt to save his brother, went into the water, but also couldn't get out.

The boys' mother tried to rescue them and also went into the water, but was helped out by neighbors when she couldn't find them, according to KSTP.

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First responders had to go into the murky water and feel around for the boys in order to pull them from the pool. Officials estimate Kpor was under water for a few minutes.

He is listed in critical condition and a family friend told the Pioneer Press he has a 50-50 chance of surviving. Kpaw has since been released from the hospital.

Gap in inspections?

This incident has left residents and pool safety advocates wondering why the pool was allowed to be kept in such poor condition, WCCO says.

And it turns out, a gap in inspections may have contributed to Monday's incident, the station reports.

The Minnesota Department of Health took over the licensing and inspecting of public pools, including those at apartment complexes, from the city of St. Paul in 2013, reports note.

But because the pool was abandoned, there was no one inspecting it. This has St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard calling for regulations and inspections of abandoned pools statewide to be reviewed.

“It needs to be looked at,” Zaccard told WCCO. “There is a gap: Once a pool is closed, who is responsible?”

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Pool code

The Princeton Place apartments was last licensed in 1996, the Pioneer Press says. It's sat unused for about a decade, residents told FOX 9.

In 2012, the previous owner was cited by the city of St. Paul for having an unsecured fence and stagnant water in the pool, the Star Tribune says. It's unclear if the pool has been inspected since then.

The pool at the Princeton Place apartments is surrounded by a 5-foot, chain-link fence as required by city code. But the Star Tribune says it doesn't meet all pool safety standards, and the Pioneer Press notes St. Paul city code doesn't have specific language involving abandoned pools.

The current owner of the building told multiple media outlets the pool was in its current condition when he bought the property two years ago and he's been working on getting it filled in to put a playground in its place. He added that he was unaware the pool was filled with that much water.

St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler told the Pioneer Press he will drain any abandoned in-ground pool in the city that is holding more than a foot of water. If interested, call 651-228-6214 to request that the fire department pump out water.

The Princeton Place apartments pool was drained following Monday's incident, according to the St. Paul Fire Department.

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