Bill introduced to change oversight ‘loophole’ after teen drowned in Madison Twp.

Rep. Thomas Hall hopes legislation keeps another drowning from occurring.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

A Butler County lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require rules governing the safety of swimmers on man-made ponds, lakes, or other similar bodies of water.

Ohio Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., has introduced House Bill 457 into the 134th General Assembly regular session. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, Sharon Ray, R-Wadsworth, Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, and Andrea White, R-Kettering.

While only Republicans are listed as sponsors, Hall said it’s not a Republican or Democrat initiative, but a “bill for the entire State of Ohio.”

Earlier this year, 14-year-old Mykiara Jones, an incoming freshman at Middletown High School, drowned July 20 at Land of Illusion Aqua Adventures Park in Madison Twp. while swimming without a life jacket. Her body was found in the murky water 30 minutes after she was last seen.

No state regulations exist to oversee Land of Illusion because the recreation area is located on a pond and not another type of water area, an investigation by this news outlet found. State and local agencies regulate nearly every other type of water recreation area in Ohio, from splash pads to municipal swimming pools to beaches.

After the drowning, Hall said he lives four miles from Land of Illusion and wanted to create legislation to correct the “loophole” that allows the water park to operate without state regulations.

“We need to do whatever we can to keep this from happening again,” Hall said at the time. “This is extremely personal to me.”

The goal, he said, is to keep similar drownings from ever happening by correcting the regulatory gap.

The next step for the bill is to be assigned to an Ohio House committee. Hall said he expects that to happen next week and he plans to talk to the Jones family in the coming weeks.

The bill would require the Director of Health to establish licensing and safety requirements governing commercial enterprises that allow swimming or other aquatic activities on man-made ponds, lakes, or other similar bodies of water, according to the bill.

Such rules need not address water quality, but shall address all of the following: The design and construction of the facilities, including its components, appurtenant structures, and the surrounding area; licensing of the enterprise and inspection of it facilities; the number and positioning of lifeguards; first aid, lifeguard, CPR, and any other training that the owner of the enterprise must require employees to obtain; any records that the owner of the enterprise must keep and maintain; any safety equipment that the owner of the enterprise must maintain; any other rule governing safety that the director determines is necessary for the effective implementation of this section.

Two days after the drowning, the water park hired an independent investigator to undertake an assessment and gap analysis of the park’s health and safety policies, procedures and programs, it said in a release.

The investigation, conducted by Dan Wood of Industrial Safety Services of Ohio, revealed no violations of law or regulations during the drowning.

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