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Family to sue YMCA over drowning death

Posted at 5:46 PM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 18:01:10-04

MADISON COUNTY, Ind. – Just days ahead of the start of swimming season, one Indiana family is sending out a warning, saying you shouldn't always assume the lifeguard watching your loved ones has the skills necessary to save your life.

It’s a tragic lesson they learned firsthand last month, and it’s leading to a lawsuit against the Madison County YMCA.

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That family says the death of 19-year-old De’Shaun McKnight was preventable, and could’ve been avoided had a properly trained and capable lifeguard been on duty.

Takia Simmons says it was an average afternoon when she and her brother – De’Shaun – and several other members of their family went to the YMCA in Anderson for a swim.

They were there for about 45 minutes before it happened.

“We were swimming to the shallow end,” Simmons told RTV6. “That is when the struggle began.”

She says De’Shaun began splashing, then sinking.

“I turned around and made direct eye contact with the lifeguard and asked him for help,” Simmons said. She actually says she tried twice to get the lifeguard to help before he came over.

De’Shaun was at the bottom of the pool by the time the lifeguard jumped in to grab him, Simmons said. She says one dive proved unsuccessful, and the lifeguard gave up after coming up empty-handed.

“He said he couldn’t get down there. He wasn’t capable of getting down there,” Simmons said. “He didn’t know what to do, and that’s when I swam to the edge of the pool and told my fiancé, ‘You’ve got to call 911.’”

Simmons estimates her brother was under the water 4-5 minutes before the other YMCA staff and bystanders rescued him.

That was long enough to put him in a coma, though. Ten days later, he died.

Now, his family’s mission is to make sure no more families have to go through this.

“(We) don’t want it to happen to (anybody) else,” Felicia Simmons, De’Shaun’s mother, said. “Nobody else (should) go through this pain we’re going through. It was senseless.”

The family is planning to sue the YMCA, saying it should never have had a lifeguard on duty who wasn’t capable of rescuing a person submerged in the water.

For reference, De’Shaun weighed roughly 130 pounds.

The YMCA’s response so far has been to close down its pool for good. The Y will only say it’s part of a strategic move as it re-evaluates the best ways they can serve the community.

RTV6 has learned the Anderson YMCA is holding a meeting Thursday night to discuss the pool closure with its current members.

Madison County YMCA Director Casey Rowlett says the organization has no comment regarding the pending lawsuit at this time.


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