Daycare where toddler nearly drowned lacked proper pool fence: inspector's report
Municipal inspectors flag fence, gates at Petrolia, Ont., home operating as a daycare
An unlicensed daycare where a toddler nearly drowned last month lacked the proper fencing and other perimeter safeguards around the backyard pool, according to a municipal inspection report.
Inspectors with Lambton County building looked at the property at 4076 Juniper Cres. in Petrolia, Ont., on Feb. 2, eight days after 20-month-year-old Waylon Saunders was found unconscious at the pool and rushed to hospital. His mother told CBC News it took doctors two hours to revive him. The boy was treated at Children's Hospital in London for nearly two weeks before he was stable enough to return home on Monday.
Located on a quiet residential subdivision, no one appeared to be home when CBC News went to the house on Thursday.
However, a report posted to the front door says municipal inspectors who visited the property after the near-drowning found a number of bylaw "deficiencies" at the house, including:
- The pool enclosure height does not meet the required five-foot minimum the bylaw requires. "Brick knee wall is approximately 32 inches in height," the report says.
- A rear gate on the east side of the property had a self-closing and self-latching device as required. However, the report says, "the self-closing function is intermittent and does not always cause the gate to self-close and latch. No lock is present."
- An exterior door is not equipped with a deadbolt, as required.
- A hot tub on the property does not have a permit, and the sliding glass door in the area where it was located "does not possess a functional latch, a self-closing device or a deadbolt."
The report also flagged a "breach in the enclosure" at the rear of the property, where a section of fencing had separated and was "significantly leaning, causing an opening in the enclosure."
Under "required actions," the report requires the property owners to immediately install temporary fencing around the pool area at least five feet high while alterations are made to the pool enclosure.
The order also requires the hot tub to be drained and not used until "a pool enclosure permit has been applied for, issued and inspected by this department." The action items also require locks and deadbolts on all doors, gates or entranceways "out of the reach of the children at least four feet in height," which lead to the pool enclosure areas.
When CBC News visited the property on Thursday, a section of chain link fence surrounded the pool. Neighbours say the fence had been erected since the near drowning.
A construction waste bin on the property near the backyard was filled with pieces of a demolished hot tub.
CBC News reached out to a woman who sources say operates the daycare, but did not receive a reply on Thursday. The inspection report lists the names of four people listed as "occupants and/or tenants of the property," but CBC News was unable to reach them.
Unlicensed at-home daycares are not illegal in Ontario. However, child-care advocates have been calling for the expansion of more licensed spaces.
More licensed spaces needed
Rachel Vickerson is executive director of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario.
While not able to comment about the Petrolia incident, Vickerson said a shortage of licensed daycare spaces often forces parents to opt for at-home daycares where the operators don't hold a licence.
"It's incredibly scary for the family and the child, and the situation should never have happened," she said.
"If this was a licensed home child care, there would have been regulations requiring gates that prevent access to any bodies of water," she said.
Vickerson said there's a "significant lack" of licensed child care across the province.
"We hear about very long wait lists, and there is not enough coverage for all children in the province," she said. "We know that there's still a lot of work to be done on this, so families have those choices."
Lambton County Ontario Provincial Police continues to investigate the Jan. 25 incident. So far, no criminal charges have been laid.
With files from the CBC's Kate Dubinski