A tragic drowning accident at Lake of the Woods Campground in Decatur took the life of a young Illinois boy on July 20, 2011. Several other drowning deaths have occurred in recent weeks at pools and water parks throughout the area, even with lifeguards and park employees present. It is clear to our Illinois accident attorneys that these facilities are failing to provide a safe environment for our children and loved ones, and their negligence is resulting in serious personal injuries and death.
According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, the 15-year-old victim from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, tried to escape the heat by participating in an organized swim at the summer camp. About 15 other campers, along with lifeguards and camp counselors, were nearby. Although the exact time of the swim is unknown, police received a 911 call around 10 p.m, indicating that the boy was seen struggling before disappearing under nearly 12 feet of water. After approximately 20 minutes of searching, police found the boy at the bottom of the lake. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of paramedics and first responders, the boy remained unconscious and unresponsive. Sadly, he could not be revived, even by hospital staff.
One of the first issues that stand out to our experienced drowning accident lawyers is the time of night that the organized swim took place. Although a spokesperson for the camp said there are floodlights in the area, state licensing rules for summer camps say that a camp may not conduct swim programs during nighttime hours. Only swimming pools may be used during the hours of darkness, provided they are equipped with underwater and deck lighting. The accident is still under investigation, but if the victim was participating in a nighttime swim, the camp clearly violated state law. Accordingly, they should be held legally responsible for the tragic death that resulted.
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Another legal concern that this accident presents is the lack of monitoring by lifeguards and camp personnel. It is the camp’s responsibility to keep their campers out of harm’s way and to ensure that the staff is properly trained. Lakes present a clear danger to children and young adults because of their unpredictable waves and currents. It is possible that lack of oversight and improper training was a factor in this victim’s drowning death. It is imperative that all lifeguards and supervisors are adequately prepared to respond to any immediate signs of distress from a camper.
Deadly drowning accidents like this one serve as a reminder of the inherently dangerous nature of summer camps. Millions of children and teens head off to camps every summer putting their trust in the camps that the children’s safety is ensured. However, summer camps are often the sites of numerous personal injuries and even deaths. Lakes and swimming pools present a major threat, because several campers are often under the care of a single lifeguard or counselor, who may not be properly trained to take on such a responsibility. The risk of serious injury is high, especially since drowning victims that survive still may suffer from brain damage, cardiac arrest, and other trauma-related complications.
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Parents should be aware that rules vary from state-to-state, and there are no federal regulations for summer camps. The American Camp Association estimates that only 25 percent of summer camps throughout the country are accredited, and the rest fail to meet the association’s health and safety standards. No camp is completely safe from accidents, but special steps need to be taken in order to avoid tragic losses. Failure to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of campers may result in liability for the camp and its staffers.
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