Family Sues Water Park over Boy’s Drowning Death

The Itani family has sued Kalahari water park in Sandusky, OH, claiming wrongful death. Hassan Itani, age 3, drowned in an outdoor kids’ pool at the park on August 2.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Toledo, alleges that Hassan was not wearing a life vest as required by park policy and the park “did not have adequate lifeguards monitoring and guarding the Lagoon.” (The Lagoon is the outdoor part of the water park.)

The lawsuit claims that Kalahari park “should have known that additional lifeguards were needed to monitor the Lagoon” and “should have known that the decedent was not wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest.”

Hassan’s mother lost site of him as he entered the pool. There were more than 50 people in the pool, according to the lawsuit. Employees found the boy face-down in the water. He later died in a hospital.

The lawsuit states that more than a million guests visit the 250,000 square-foot water park each year. Attorney Shereef Akeel is representing the Itani family. Kalahari spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said that the company cannot comment on pending legislation.

“In our nine years of business, neither of our two resorts has had anything like this occur, and we are devastated,” said Daylene Stroebe, director of the water park’s safety and compliance, shortly after Hassan’s tragic death. Stroebe said in an interview that the pool was “appropriately staffed” with trained and certified lifeguards and supervisors.

“I think everybody did what they were supposed to do,” Stroebe said after reviewing videotape of the incident.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture regulates amusement park rides in the state, and the department has fined Kalahari five times since it opened in 2005. Fines were for lifeguard shortages and other issues.

In an earlier interview, McCarthy said the lodge draws 25,000 visitors a week and has been inspected 16 times without a citation since the last Agriculture Department write-up.

Bob England of the Erie County Health Department said in an interview that two lifeguards were on-duty at the 8,200 square-foot outdoor Lagoon when Hassan wandered into deeper water and drowned. According to England, state regulations require a third lifeguard if more than 50 people are in the water. At this time, it’s unclear how many people were in the water at the time of Hassan’s drowning.

“Maybe they should’ve had three, but I don’t know,” said England. “There’s no way to make that distinction.”

England also reported that when inspectors showed up on the same weekend of Hassan’s death, they found more than 50 people in the pool - and only two lifeguards. The county health department oversees lifeguard staff and water quality at the park, while the state agriculture department regulates the safety of amusement park rides, including pools and lifeguards.

If you or a family member have been seriously injured or killed due to negligence on the part of a business, contact a Georgia premises liability lawyer as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.