Hot tub horror stories - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL


Hot tub horror stories

A nice soak in the hot tub or spa is a great way to relax, but a recent study found that hot tub-related injuries have increased by 160 percent in the last decade.
Hot tubs can be especially dangerous to children. Many kids have been badly hurt and even killed.  

It's an enjoyable activity for millions of Americans, but for some, it can turn into a nightmare in seconds. A drain cover in a spa or hot tub that is missing, broken or not the right kind can become a death trap for young children.

Jose Torres is a division chief of the Santa Monica Fire Department in California.

"Some very horrific things can happen. If a child sits on a drain, they can become disemboweled," says Torres. "The suction is so powerful that it's actually sucking the intestines outside of your body."

However, Chief Torres says the most common type of drain entrapment occurs when a child's long hair gets caught.

"When the hair is covering the drain, it goes down into the drain itself and it just clogs it up, and creates that suction power to hold that person down," says Torres.

That's exactly what happened to 10-year-old Katie Glavinic in a hot tub at a family barbecue.

Michelle Glavinic, Katie's mom, says, "I couldn't get her out. I could feel and see that she was stuck."

Katie's waist-long hair was completely sucked up inside the hot tub drain. As she was drowning right before Michelle's eyes, several friends and family members jumped into the hot tub and, through force, were able to pull the drain cover off. 

"It was stuck to the side of Katie's head," says Glavinic. "All her hair was a tangled, snarled mess on the other side of the drain cover."

Fortunately, a close friend on the scene was trained in CPR.
"She finally started coughing and throwing up the water and breathing," says Glavinic.

Now eight years later, Katie is finally able to talk about those terrifying moments when she was trapped under water.

"I didn't realize I was far enough down that I couldn't come up. I started to panic and then I thought, 'This is it. I'm going to die,'" says Katie.

While Katie survived, most drain entrapment victims do not. In 2008, a federal law finally required the pool and spa industry to replace defective drain covers with redesigned, safer ones.

"The anti-entrapment drain cover is a raised cover that prevents complete covering of the drain, which allows it to function normally and it doesn't create a suction," says Chief Torres.

But Torres says parents should still take important safety precautions when it comes to all public and privately-owned spas and hot tubs. 

"Never get into a hot tub with a broken or missing drain cover," says Chief Torres. "Children should never be left unsupervised near a pool or spa. Teach your kids to stay away from the pool and spa drains. Know how to shut off your hot tub, know where the switch is or the circuit breaker." 

Michelle Glavinic says, "I feel tremendously thankful for all God did that day even in the midst of a tragedy. She's our miracle girl."

"I feel very blessed," adds Katie. "I know that there's a reason I'm alive and I live for that reason." 

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