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Chicago teen drowns at Michigan summer camp. Was a Michigan state law violated?

Posted by David Nemeroff | Dec 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

At this time of year, I like to reflect upon past blog posts. This one stays with me, every day. As a parent and a Chicago personal injury lawyer accidents involving children have a profound impact on me. Take the time and read the blog post below.

When I think of summer, I think of Camp Wayne in Preston Park, PA. That is where my fondest childhood memories are from. Sun up until sun down, my days were filled with many activities. I lived for that! As campers we spent hours playing baseball, basketball and soccer. One of the highlights of the day was heading down to the lake for a swim. That exhilarating feeling when you jumped in the cold water after a sweltering hot day. Nothing else could compare.

Last week, a Buffalo Grove teenager drowned while swimming in a lake at a Michigan sleepover camp. The accidental drowning occurred last Wednesday night at the Greenwoods Camp on Lake of the Woods in Decatur. Jacob Waxberg of Buffalo Grove, IL was 15-year-old veteran camper. Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Human Services are investigating the drowning.

Sources have reported that the victim was participating in a camp swim at dusk. At this moment, limited information is available as to the exact time of the swim. The police reported that they received a 911 call around 10 p.m. Much of the details surrounding the drowning are unclear at this moment. It has been reported that the teenage boy was observed struggling moments before he vanished from the water's surface. After an exhaustive search effort, Michigan police found the victim's body at the bottom of the lake. After exhausting all emergency efforts by paramedics, the victim remained unconscious. He was later pronounced dead at a local Michigan hospital.

After hearing of the drowning, what stood out in my mind was the time the organized swim was conducted. State licensing regulations for summer camps strictly mandate that a camp may not conduct swim programs during night time hours. Swimming pools can be used during night time hours, if they are equipped with underwater illumination. A spokesperson for Greenwoods Camp said there were floodlights in the area at the time of the swim. Was there under water illumination as per state law? The drowning accident is still under investigation. If the victim was participating in a nighttime swim, the camp violated state law.

The second issue that arises from this tragic accident is whether the swimmers were appropriately monitored. They should have been monitored by lifeguards and camp personnel. By law, it is the camp's responsibility to keep their campers out of danger and harm. They also need to ensure that the staff is properly trained. Lake swimming presents a danger to all swimmers. Could the lack of oversight and improper training be a factor in this victim's drowning? Camps are required to make sure that all lifeguard staff are adequately trained and prepared to respond to any emergency situations.

Deadly drowning accidents like this one serve as a reminder of the dangers that can occur at any summer camps. Every summer children all over the US look forward to staying at overnight summer camps. Parents put their trust in the camp owner's hands. Summer camps are often the sites of numerous personal injuries and even deaths. It is reported that a substantial amount of injuries occur in lakes and swimming pools. The issue at hand is their adequate ratio of swimmer and lifeguard. In some circumstances, several young campers are under the care of a single lifeguard or counselor. How well trained are they to handle multiple small children? The risk of serious injury is extremely high, the majority of drowning victims that survive still may suffer from brain injury, spinal cord injury, fractures, and other serious personal injuries.

As a Chicago injury and accident attorney, I understand that parents should be aware that camp rules and regulations vary from state-to-state. Currently, there are no federal regulations for summer camps. It is reported by The American Camp Association that only 25 percent of summer camps throughout the country are accredited. What amazes me is that over 75% of camps fail to meet the association's health and safety standards. Accidents can occur at anytime and anywhere. What is negligence, is when a camps failure to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of campers.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Jacob Waxberg. Nemeroff Law Offices extends its condolences to the Waxberg family.

Source: Teen drowns at local camp,WWMT.Com, July 21, 2011 6:06 PM

About the Author

David Nemeroff

In January 2012, David Nemeroff was voted one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the entire state of Illinois (out of 83,000 lawyers) by Super Lawyers Magazine...

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