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Relatives of an 8-year-old boy who drowned in a Tacoma pool have sued, alleging that negligence on the part of those running the pool and his summer camp led to his death.
Nguyen Tran was unconscious when he was pulled from the Stewart Heights Pool on July 27, 2017 during a day-camp outing.
He died later in the Intensive Care Unit of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
Tran’s family alleges there weren’t enough lifeguards or camp staffers supervising the kids that day, and that those present weren’t sufficiently trained or supervised, especially regarding young children who can’t swim.
His relatives filed a lawsuit April 8 against Metro Parks Tacoma, the Peace Community Center and Tacoma Public Schools in Pierce County Superior Court.
Metro Parks owns and operates the pool, and the community center and school district operated the camp — the McCarver Scholars Summer Academy — the lawsuit says.
Metro Parks spokesman Hunter George said in a statement Thursday: “All of us at Metro Parks remain deeply saddened about the loss of Nguyen Tran, and his family and friends continue to be in our thoughts. We are reviewing the lawsuit and cannot comment on the details at this time.”
Tacoma Public Schools and the Peace Community Center issued similar statements.
School district spokesman Dan Voelpel said: “We continue to be saddened by the loss of Nguyen Tran and by the impact of the loss on our McCarver community. We are disappointed that the District was named in this lawsuit as this tragedy did not occur under TPS’s supervision or control.”
The community center’s statement said it “wishes to express our continued sadness and sincere condolences to the Tran family. We are currently reviewing the lawsuit and cannot comment further at this time.
According to the complaint:
The pool was crowded the day of the outing.
Tran, who couldn’t swim, wandered out of the shallow end of the pool and into the deep end, past a floating line that separates the two.
Lifeguards and camp staffers did not notice.
Tran went under water in the deep end and stayed there at least 5-10 minutes.
Another swimmer noticed his body floating or slightly under water and called for help.
The lifeguard at the deep end at that time “had her eyes totally off the pool, engaging in a casual conversation with a swimmer, or swimmers, standing at the base of her lifeguard stand,” the lawsuit alleges. “The lifeguard only returned her eyes to the pool as Nguyen was dragged through the water to the side of the pool near her lifeguard stand.”
A Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department report said the lifeguard started CPR and used an automatic external defibrillator, which showed the boy had a pulse and did not need to be shocked, according to News Tribune archives.
According to the lawsuit, “After belatedly assisting in getting Nguyen out of the pool, this lifeguard in the tower, repelled by the vomit and blood and/or bile escaping from Nguyen’s mouth, failed to immediately clear his airway and delayed initiation of CPR. The other lifeguards also failed to timely intervene.”
The lawsuit also alleges that every part of the pool was supposed to have more than one lifeguard and that other lifeguards “failed in their duties to maintain constant eye contact on the pool ... .”