Dayton approves $1.5M payment after boy drowns in city pool

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton may pay $1.5 million after boy drowned in city pool

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The city of Dayton agreed today to pay $1.5 million to the estate of Niguel Hamilton, the 6-year-old boy who drowned in a city pool.

Hamilton died after being discovered at the bottom of the Belmont Pool after swim lessons on July 12.

Multiple certified lifeguards were working in the pool area at the Lohrey Recreation Center in southeast Dayton when Hamilton drowned, Dayton police investigative records show.

MORE: Investigation released into boy’s drowning in Dayton pool; some details still unknown

The city was negligent in Hamilton’s death but municipalities generally have broad immunity from liability, and the proposed settlement at least provides some resolution for the family, said Michael Wright, attorney with Wright & Schulte LLC, which was one of two firms representing Hamilton’s family.

“Clearly a child died, so the processes they had in place were not adequate to prevent this situation from occurring,” Wright said.

Dayton City Commissioners today approved a $1.5 million payment to Wright & Schulte and Naja Hamilton, the administrator of the Hamilton’s estate.

The payment, recommended by the city attorney, settles a moral obligation claim related to Hamilton’s drowning.

READ MORE: ‘Drowning is silent’: Boy’s death during swim lesson leads experts to urge safety measures

On July 12, Hamilton went missing while he was taking swimming classes at the Belmont Pool. About 10 minutes passed before a lifeguard spotted Hamilton in the deep end near the bottom of the pool.

Witness statements suggest multiple people believed Hamilton got out of the pool to use the restroom. Lifeguards, family members and other parents searched for Hamilton in the restrooms and outside the facility.

Hamilton died three days after being pulled from the water. He was brain dead and in a coma after drowning, his family said.

The boy’s death led to a police investigation that closed without the filing of criminal charges.

Investigators said the pool had a reflective glare that made it hard to see the bottom of the pool from certain vantage points. Two lifeguards said the water was a partially cloudy, making it hard to see the bottom clearly.

Wright said he believes the city has evaluated and updated its pool safety procedures, processes and training to try to prevent future tragedies.

“We believe that if everyone had been doing what they were supposed to do, this would not have occurred,” he said.

Wright said the family is still grieving and trying to make sense of what happened. He said they are supporting each other but the loss of a child is absolutely devastating, especially in these circumstances.

Wright once represented Jackie Brown and the estate of Davionte Pierce in a civil lawsuit against the city of Dayton.

Nearly a decade ago, the 6-year-old Pierce and his brother entered the Westwood Park pool after it had closed.

Pierce was pulled from the water by his godfather, but he never regained consciousness and died about 11 days later.

The lawsuit claimed the city was negligent because the pool’s perimeter fence needed repairs and was a nuisance.

The case went to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled against the family and estate, saying the pool was clearly closed and anyone who entered it was trespassing.

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