The Edgartown Board of Health has twice found that the Field Club pool where 3-year-old Henry Bowman Backer drowned was missing a required waterline. The field club pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Friday in Dukes County Superior Court for what Judge Mark Gildea called “wanton or reckless conduct” that led to the child’s death. Among the Field Club’s criminal transgressions, as described by the prosecution, was the lack of a waterline in the pool where Henry drowned. The Field Club instead relied on a “white line,” according to an agreed statement of facts. The line marked the boundary between the shallow waters that small children were allowed to frequent and the deeper waters where they were not. A search warrant affidavit described it as “a thin white line, on the bottom of the pool, at the water depth mark of about 2 feet…”
According to the affidavit, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Dustin Shaw questioned Edgartown Health Officer Matt Poole about inspections of the “free-form” or “family-form” swimming pool. free” of the Field Club. It was the pool Henry was in.
After reviewing previous inspection reports, Poole explained that he “discovered two separate inspection violations which indicate that a swimmer/non-swimmer float line was noted missing during the pre-swimmer inspection. opening in 2017 and 2021,” an affidavit reads. Poole went on to tell Rider Shaw, according to an affidavit, that in addition to the notes on the reports, “a verbal explanation” was given to the Field Club pool operator “to install the waterline before the ‘opening”.
Unlike the lack of a float line itself, the health board violations specific to a float line were not mentioned in court and do not appear in the agreed statement of facts. Cape Town and Islands District Attorney’s Office ADA Michael Trudeau and club attorney David Apfel each signed. Inspection forms show the Field Club’s freeform pool was inspected by the Edgartown Board of Health on June 26, 2021, a month before Henry was discovered floating face down across the white line – the other side of where a floating line would have been. Two discernible handwritten words on a page of the June inspection form with the title “HEALTH AND SAFETY VIOLATIONS / GENERAL SAFETY VIOLATIONS” are “buoy-rope”. Massachusetts Department of Public Health Community Sanitation Program records show a state inspector visited the Field Club on August 4, 2021 in response to Henry’s death. The inspector found two dozen violations in and around the Field Club pools, including the freeform pool. Violations included tripping hazards, “incomplete record keeping” via a logbook, an unlocked door behind which pool chemicals were stored, clogged walkways and out-of-compliance chlorine levels.