Parents of Drowned Child Sue Club, Others for $56M

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The parents of a five-year-old boy who drowned on the first day of a summer camp hosted by Timberhill Athletic Club in Corvallis, Ore., are suing the club, certain staff members, and state and county authorities for $56.6 million.

Club surveillance video shows Tomas Barreto Pizano riding a slide into the pool, then fighting for his life.

The camp took place June 18-22, 2018. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court by Marcela Pizano and Jorge Barreto. 

As reported by The Oregonian, the lawsuit claims:

  • The water was 7 inches deeper than the boy was tall and he can be seen on the video bobbing up from the bottom of the pool and gasping for air 88 to 92 times over four minutes before succumbing.
  • Throughout the time the boy struggled and then floated unconscious, several staff members walked by or stood nearby but failed to notice him.
  • Finally, after eight minutes had passed, two adult athletic club members noticed the boy floating face down.
  • One of the staffers pushed an 8-year-old child who was holding onto the side of the pool toward the middle of the pool and urged the child to grab Tomas. The staffer "then took the time to remove a cellphone or a wallet from his gym shorts and set them on the pool deck before returning to the side of the outdoor pool."
  • A club member who spotted Tomas "jumped into the pool herself." She was followed by a different staff member, and Tomas was pulled to the side of the pool. The first staff member administered CPR using an improper technique, and Tomas was not revived.
  • Days before the camp started and on the first day of camp, she told the club’s athletic director and a staff member that Tomas would need to wear a life vest in the pool because he couldn’t swim and she was assured that one would be put on him and that he would be monitored in the pool.

According to The Oregonian, the suit states that Timberhill Athletic Club’s outdoor pool was violating local or state rules, and it faults the state and county (specifically, the Oregon Health Authority and Benton County Environmental Health, which are both named as defendants) for allegedly failing to enforce those rules. Among the alleged violations, according to the suit, was a large slide that was in use even though it hadn’t received the necessary permits and that the athletic club didn’t employ a certified lifeguard at the pool on the day Tomas died or in the days leading up to his death.

The Oregon Health Authority refused to comment on pending litigation, but offered the following: "OHA would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the Barreto Pizano family."

Eric Kekel, an attorney for the athletic club, declined comment about allegations in the lawsuit. "The Timberhill Athletic Club and its owners and employees are very saddened about this incident and do extend their sincere condolences to the family," Kekel said.

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