May 2, 2006

James Baker speaks of drowning death of grandchild

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - His voice trembling with emotion,
former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker on Tuesday described
the drowning death of his 7-year-old granddaughter in a hot
tub, as he joined calls for legislation to make swimming pools

"Four years ago, our hearts were broken. That's when our
7-year-old lost her life in an accident that need not have
happened," said Baker, fighting to maintain his composure at an
event held on the National Mall in front of the Capitol.

It was the first time he discussed the drowning in public.

Baker's daughter-in-law Nancy Baker provided graphic
testimony of the day her daughter Virginia Graeme drowned. She
was trapped in the drain of a hot tub by the water pressure and
it took several adults to pry her body free.

In the United States, drowning is the second leading cause
of accidental death among children under the age of 14. In
2003, 782 died and more than 3,700 were treated in emergency
rooms for near drowning.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said
she was introducing legislation that would provide incentive
grants for states that make pool and spa safety devices -- such
as safety vacuum release systems, multiple drains and drain
covers that prevent entrapment -- mandatory.

Baker was secretary of state from 1989 to 1992 under the
first President George Bush, leading U.S. diplomacy during the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany.