Homeowners Address Violations After Pool Death

East Hampton Town officials found several building code violations around the pool of a Route 114 house where a boy drowned on Sunday.

Tom Preiato, the town's chief building inspector, and David Betts, director of the town's public safety division, confirmed Friday that a notice of violation of the New York State Property Maintenance Code, as it pertains to pools, had been issued to the homeowners, Elizabeth and Joseph Bianco, who are cooperating and in the process of correcting the issues.

Derek B. Smith, an 11-year-old from Brooklyn, was visiting the house with a family friend who reportedly works for one of the Biancos. The woman, whose name police did not release, found Derek at the bottom of the pool after he was out of her sight for just three or four minutes while playing with a ball around the pool. He was not breathing, and despite resuscitations efforts, he was pronounced dead at Southampton Hospital.

East Hampton Town police Detective Sgt. Greg Schaefer said Friday that he did not believe the any of the building issues contributed to the boy's death. The family friend who was with him "saw him go out. She knew he was out there and she didn't fear that he was going to go near the pool," he said.

"There are a number of violations, but they are given an opportunity to repair them before any action is taken," Mr. Betts explained, adding that the homeowners "are diligently working to correct these violations." 

Mr. Preiato said five of the doors leading out to the pool were not outfitted with alarms and five exterior gates were not self-closing and self-latching. Also, he said, a section of the pool fence that was approximately 8 feet long was only 36 inches high where 48 inches is required and a section of lattice fencing had spacing between them that were greater than the 1 3/4 inches that is permitted.

Alarms on the doors leading out to the pool were installed immediately, Mr. Betts said.

In late 2001, Mr. Preiato inspected the property before the certificate of occupancy was issued in 2002. It met code requirements at that time, he said.

Mr. Preiato said he is in daily contact with Mr. Bianco and made it clear to him that "time is of the essence," he said. The homeowners have wired some of the gates with nylon ties so they can't open at all.

"There is no hesitation there. They are working very hard," Mr. Betts said.

As long as the violations are fixed, no summonses will be issued, a common practice, he said.