Only on 12: Housing company responds to allegations about drowning at Fort Gordon

Balfour Beatty

One family is claiming Balfour Beatty did not allow them to add extra safety precautions to their home for their disabled daughter. (WRDW-TV / June 7, 2012)

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, June 7, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We are learning more about the death of an autistic 7-year-old.

One month ago, Hannah Ross unlocked the door to her home and wandered into a lake at Fort Gordon. She later drowned. The accident sparked a News 12 investigation into allegations the family was denied extra safety measures by the private housing company, Balfour Beatty.

They released a statement regarding Hannah's death, and even though they extend their sympathies to the family, Hannah's mother, Lauren Sackman, says it just isn't enough.

"I got from that statement -- oh yeah, we're sorry. Enough said. Case closed," Sackman said.

This statement has been the only communication from Balfour Beatty about the accident:
"Balfour Beatty Communities extends our deepest sympathies to the Sackman family during this extremely difficult time. The loss of Hannah Ross is truly devastating for the entire Fort Gordon community. Our thoughts have been, and will continue to be, with Hannah’s family and friends.

Balfour Beatty Communities is committed to ensuring the safety of all our residents. Our staff continues to work directly with the family regarding housing matters and will continue to partner with the Army to ensure the safety of family housing. Given the sensitive nature of this incident and our policy not to discuss resident matters with the media, we cannot provide any further comment at this time."

In response to the statement, Sackman says, "It's shady ... with only a paragraph? They could have come up with more."

The statement comes after allegations that the private housing company told Ross's family it was against policy to add extra locks, door alarms and window alarms to their home.

"To refuse to have a family who is willing to put their own money into the safety of their kids, there shouldn't be anything against that ," Sackman said.

And she isn't alone. After Hannah's tragic drowning, other families on post with autistic children are also concerned about safety.

Amber Byne lives on post, and she says, "We asked about the locks, and they said no."

Even after Hannah's death, the company still refuses to approve the extra safety measures.

"After what happened to Hannah, we decided we wanted the alarms on and the locks. We were turned down, and another family told me they were turned down, too," Byne said.

Sackman says they just don't care about the military families.

"If they did, then they would have allowed us to put these items up, and my daughter would be here," she said.

And since the lake where Hannah drowned is so close to family housing, parents worry this could happen again.

"It's so close to our houses. And there shouldn't be such easy access to a big body of water like that," Byne said.

Sackman says the statement from Balfour Beatty isn't enough.

"I'm not going to stop. I want to see change," she said.


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