Only on 12: Mother of girl who drowned at Fort Gordon speaks out for the first time

Published: Jun. 2, 2012 at 7:14 PM EDT
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News 12 at 6 o’clock / Saturday, June 2, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When divers pulled 7-year-old Hannah Ross's body from the lake on Fort Gordon, it was the end to a search effort the community never wanted to see.

A parent's worst fear became a reality for Lauren Sackman, and she still has trouble accepting that she will never see her little girl again.

"I'm trying not to do the blaming game, and I'm trying not to blame myself, but I can't help it," she said.

She replays the day Hannah escaped their home on Fort Gordon.

"We had a routine; it's get dressed, get comfy, dinner, bathtime, bedtime, and it's like that every night. So I thought, OK, get your pajamas on. I'm going to start dinner," she said.

"Went into the kitchen, was on my way and noticed the garage door was open. I was like oh no ... went out to the garage door and the side door was open. And then, I realized Hannah was gone," she said.


After every inch of Fort Gordon was combed for any trace of Hannah, divers found her body at the bottom of a lake behind the family’s home.

Sackman says she didn't know there was a lake behind their house, and that if she had known there was, "... we would have had to live somewhere else."

She says no one from Balfour Beatty, the private company that provides homes for the military families that live on base, notified her about the lake.

Some of her neighbors had no idea, either.

"I don't know how many people came up and told me, we did not know there was a lake back there, and they live right across the street from us or two houses down."

Hannah was autistic, and so is her little brother, William.

Their disability makes safety measures a necessity for their family.

"The housing is not helping, equipping us with alarms, extra locks, higher fences. They refuse to help us in that department," Sackman siad.

She asked if she could install extra locks, door alarms and window alarms in their home when they moved in, but the housing company said it was against their policy.

Sackman is upset that the company has such stringent rules.

“When it comes to safety of our kids, I don’t think there should be any rules. I think we should be able to do what we need to do to keep them safe,” she said.