As Ocean County, New Jersey authorities continue to investigate the drowning death of a 2-year-old Berkeley Township girl who wandered into a neighbor's backyard and fell into a swimming pool, reliable sources tell New Jersey 101.5 News the fence surrounding that pool is old, damaged and incomplete, and criminal charges could possibly be filed.

A child outside a fence that surrounds a pool in New York. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)
A child outside a fence that surrounds a pool in New York. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

According to a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, if you have any type of in-ground or above ground swimming pool, you must, according to state code, have it surrounded by barrier. This usually means a fence that surrounds the pool, is not climbable and has self-closing and self-latching access gates.

"It has to be at least 4 feet high, the verticals need to be smaller than 4 inches wide, and the gates have to open outward, that is so that when it self-closes, if somebody is on the outside, they can't push the gate in," Paulette Pitrak, the deputy executive director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association said. "What we're doing with barriers in New Jersey and all the states is preventing access."

When asked if swimming pool barriers, once they're erected, are ever checked, Pitrak said, "other than the consumer's responsibility to take care of their property, there is no follow up by the code officials, by the township."

She stressed an ongoing effort is made make sure pool owners understand the requirements regarding fencing and "to push to people with pools on the importance of safety, and to keep up all the safety devices in and around the pool up to date, but because it's a residential pool, it's the homeowner's responsibility to do that."

Pitrak also said in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, if you have a door from your house that opens to your pool area, you are required to have an alarm or some other safety device that will alert everyone if that door is opened, but New Jersey has removed that requirement from their code.

"It's about protecting the 1-to 5-year-olds," she said. "If you look at all the barrier dimensions that's what it's made for, it's made so those little hands and little feet and little bodies can't get through, can't climb over, can't get access to that swimming pool."

She also stressed families with small kids need to be proactive on this issue.

"If they have a neighbor with a pool, they can call the township or the municipality and say listen, I believe this barrier is not made well and I believe that township will be out there," she said.

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