An investigation was underway today into the death of a 16-year-old boy who suffered from intellectual disabilities and drowned during a school visit to a swimming pool in East Los Angeles.
An attorney for the family, Luis Carrillo, said Garfield High School sophomore Eric Ortiz was not being properly supervised when he drowned while fully dressed and died as a result of negligence on the part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The district did not address the allegation of negligence when it released a statement today extending “heartfelt condolences to the family on its tragic loss.”
“The District will continue to cooperate with the ongoing law enforcement investigation,” the statement said, adding that the LAUSD also would deploy crisis counselors “to help the school community.”
The accident occurred at the public pool at Atlantic Park in the 500 block of South Atlantic Boulevard around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday during an annual visit by members of a Garfield High School Global Studies class. The end-of-school-year visit is described on the school’s website as the Global Studies Bash.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eddie Hernandez said investigators are not sure if the victim jumped into the pool or was pushed into the deep end.
Witnesses said he sank, re-surfaced, took a breath and then sank again, Hernandez said. The boy was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“He was in everyday clothing,” Carrillo told City News Service. “He wasn’t in a bathing suit.”
Ortiz, a special needs student, had a full-time teaching assistant assigned to him by the LAUSD in the past two years. Carrillo said the assistant would not have permitted the victim to swim — if only he had been with him.
“He was negligent,” Carrillo said. “He did not guard his student adequately because the student should not have drifted off.”
Eric’s death was caused by “the negligence of the LAUSD,” which knew he could not be left alone “for even a second,” Carrillo said, adding that the victim’s family wants an investigation into why the victim was unattended.
“The family wants justice, an independent investigation and answers as to why their child was left alone. The family does not want condolences from the LAUSD,” Carrillo said in a statement this morning.
He said he believed the students’ visit was to have been to Atlantic Park, and not the public swimming pool within the park.