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School Drowning Caused by Design Flaw



Nothing is more tragic than a child dying from an accident. Children are supposed to outlive their parents and when a child dies unexpectedly it can be devastating.

Such is the case for one of our clients, parents of a 16 year-old boy who was found at the bottom of a school swimming pool.

The young man had special needs and was supposed to be supervised while swimming. However, the solitary teacher tasked with watching him was also tending to a basketball game and other students within the same area. He was unable to focus on just one student. There was also no lifeguard on duty whose sole responsibility would have been to look after students in the pool.

The young man had fallen beneath the surface sometime during class. We know this because the teacher actually deducted points from his grade for leaving early, so his absence was noticed at some point. Even when the other students reported that his normal clothes were still in the locker room, no one went searching for the missing student. It was only much later at night that a security guard noticed the young man sitting at the bottom of the pool.

But how could it be that no one else saw him? We determined that the school had changed the lights from being above the pool to the walls on the side of the pool. Why does this matter? The lighting caused a reflection when there were waves in the pool, also known as ‘surface tension disruption’. This basically means the top of the pool looked like a sheet of glass and any onlooker’s view of the bottom was obscured.  We were able to prove this lighting design defect made the boy invisible to other students and the teacher.

This death by drowning was completely preventable and should have never happened. There should have been a lifeguard on duty, more teachers around and the physical changes to the pool area should have been researched to ensure each and every kid’s safety.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at https://www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

– James (Jay) M. Kelley III