On The Early Show Wednesday, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen told the story of two parents whose four-year-old son was killed in his very first day at what was billed as a top-shelf camp in their hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif.
Anat Gottesman says her son "was a very happy, cheerful boy. ... He was full of life."
In the summer of 2005, Yoni Gottesman's parents took him to summer camp. It was supposed to be a fun and exciting experience.
"I remember when I left him in the morning," Anat recalled, "he barely said goodbye. He said, 'Mommy, I'm so happy. Bye-bye. See you later." '
But that was the last time Anat would see her son alive.
Her husband, Oded Gottesman, says, "All of a sudden I get a phone call, asking me if I'm Yoni's father. And I said, 'Yes.' She asked me to come to the club, because he had some accident."
Yoni had drowned.
It was captured on a surveillance video that shows a camp counselor dunking Yoni over and over again in the water, a dozen times. Next, Yoni struggles to swim to the edge of the pool, as the counselor turns his back to play with other children. Finally, Yoni is floating face-down in the pool. Even with two lifeguards on duty and counselors in the water, it took eight minutes before anyone noticed.
Yoni died an hour later at a hospital.
"We just couldn't understand how, you know, that could have happened," Oded says. "Everything we did was everything normal parents would do."
The Gottesmans would later learn the Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club had been operating its kids' camp without a license.
"We just couldn't believe it," Oded says. "At the time, we were thinking we were sending him to the best place. They advertise themselves as the best place, safest place. They held themselves as a very professional and exclusive club."
But, Koeppen points out, there are no federal regulations when it comes to camps. Rules vary greatly from state-to-state. Six states don't require camps to be licensed at all. Twenty-eight states don't require criminal background checks of camp employees. And, according to the American Camp Association, only 25 percent of camps in the United States are accredited, meaning they meet the 300 health and safety standards set by the association.
"I think," says Dr. Edward Walton, a pediatrician, "the word 'camp' is sometimes used too lightly."