For the Mattich Family of Puyallup, Washington, a sunny afternoon and cool water hid a hazard just below the surface that ended in both tragedy and surprising courage. The Mattich family were gathered at an Eastern Washington resort when their son, Isaac, went missing. They looked in and around the pool but couldn’t find him. After a frantic search, a young man in the swimming pool felt something at the bottom of the pool. His fears were confirmed when he found eight-year-old Isaac lying on the bottom of the pool. The water in the pool was so cloudy with a milky haze that someone looking into the pool from above could not see more than two feet below the water’s surface. This made it appear as if people were seeing the white bottom of the pool, preventing anyone from seeing Isaac’s struggle in the pool. Despite heroic efforts to resuscitate him, Isaac never regained consciousness and passed away.
Every year, there are over 3,000 drowning deaths in the United States. But while parents take steps to protect their children in and around water, there is a hidden, unknown danger that isn’t visible or even well-known – cloudy water in swimming pools.
Cloudy or murky water is cited as a contributing factor in approximately 10% of drowning situations. In fact, Washington State law requires that the main drains of a swimming pool MUST be visible at all times or the pool should be closed until they can be seen. The “hidden” danger of cloudy water in pools, in fact, can hide the bottom of a pool as well as the silent struggling of a swimmer in trouble. The clarity of the water at the time of an accident often plays an important factor in the cases of drowning, and can mean the difference between life and death.
The Mattich family’s case was referred to Abeyta Nelson by a west side attorney. After four years and a three-week jury trial, Terry Abeyta, Greg Lighty, and David Abeyta were able to recover some compensation for this family’s devastating loss. We were moved by their courageous effort to hold their family together, rebuild their lives, and honor their son.
If you cannot see the main drain at the deep end of a swimming pool clearly, the water is too cloudy to use the pool safely. Report it to the pool owner and do not swim in the pool until you can see the drains. Always use caution when in and around swimming pools, and know the warning signs of an unsafe pool.