Chicago Boy With Autism Drowned While Lifeguard Was on Computer in Office, Lawsuit Alleges
A 14-year-old Illinois boy with autism who didn’t know how to swim drowned while a lifeguard sat in a nearby office, a new lawsuit alleges.
Rosario Israel Gomez was allegedly unsupervised on Jan. 25 when he and other students in a special education class took part in a swimming pool activity at Kennedy High School in Chicago, the suit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, claims.
“We are all devastated and cannot understand how the place your child should feel safe … suddenly becomes the reason why he does not come home,” his family wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the boy’s mother, Yolanda Juarez, against the Chicago Board of Education, contends that a lifeguard who was supposed to be supervising the swimmers instead was using a computer in an adjacent office.
The suit also alleges that Gomez wasn’t paired with a “buddy,” didn’t get one-on-one training or proper supervision in the pool and wasn’t provided a flotation device or other safety equipment.
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Those at the pool allegedly didn’t notice that Gomez was drifting into deeper water, “failed to observe and recognize” as the boy was “struggling and drowning in the swimming pool” and didn’t intervene as he sunk down and lay motionless “for a sufficient time so as to make resuscitation efforts futile,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit, which seeks more than $100,000, says that because of the boy’s cognitive disabilities and special needs, the school should have known it was harder for him to identify the potential dangers of a swimming pool or alert someone that he needed help.
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Chicago Public Schools “mourns the tragic loss of one of our students” and is conducting an investigation, spokesman Michael Passman told PEOPLE. He declined further comment.
No charges will be filed in the case, according to Chicago Police spokeswoman Michelle Tannehill.
Gomez, whose autism “was what made him strong, what made him unique,” was a bright boy who loved trains, school and spending time with his grandparents, according to the GoFundMe page. “His family was addicted to his charming ways.”