Club Sued Over Pool Entrapment Death

PITTSBURGH, PA -- The Downtown Athletic Club of Pittsburgh (PA) was named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit filed June 10 over the drowning death of Lorenzo Williams, 38, of Verona, PA.

In the lawsuit filed with the Allegheny County (PA) Common Pleas Court, Williams’ widow, Ericka Williams, says her husband became “entrapped in the suction of the swimming pool drain,” causing his death. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent in not making sure the pool was safe.

Williams drowned April 11 in the 10-foot deep area of the club’s pool. The Allegheny County medical examiner's office ruled the death an accidental drowning.

Although many entrapment deaths happen in shallower water, suction-related accidents can occur in deeper water, says Kathleen Reilly, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“It has happened before in the deep end, but I’m guessing it would have to be a pretty strong force [to entrap Williams],” says Reilly.

From 1999 to 2008, 83 pool and spa entrapments were reported, including 11 deaths and 69 injuries, according to CPSC data.

On Dec. 19, 2008, the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act went into effect, requiring pools to be equipped with drain covers certified to comply with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers/American National Standards Institute 2007 standard.

There is no word as to whether the pool at the Downtown Athletic Club was compliant with the federal entrapment law at the time of the incident.

The Doubletree Hotel & Suites also was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, since the club rents its pool space from the hotel, which is owned by Elmhurst Corp.

A notice on the Doubletree Hotel's Web site states that the pool is closed for renovations until June 30. The hotel has not returned calls for comment, and the club's Web site and phone number are out of order.

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