Schenectady County

City, YWCA sued over drowning death

The pool where a 7-year-old girl drowned last year was overcrowded and understaffed, the girl’s fami
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The pool where a 7-year-old girl drowned last year was overcrowded and understaffed, the girl’s family alleges in a lawsuit filed this month.

Named as defendants are the City of Schenectady, the YWCA of Schenectady and three people identified as lifeguards.

The family also alleges that a smaller wading pool designed for younger children at the Front Street Pool was closed, and employees directed all the children, including Laniya Ndabaze, to the main pool.

That resulted in too many children in the main pool and required greater supervision, especially for the younger children, the suit alleges. The operators were negligent in failing to provide adequate supervision, follow proper guidelines and training, the suit reads.

They also allege that the child suffered “extreme conscious pain and suffering, with desperate and fierce struggle to breathe and survive, desperately struggling for air with awareness of impending death, with help nearby but unresponsive.”

The family filed the suit earlier this month in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County seeking $25 million in damages. They are represented by New York City attorney D. Andrew Marshall. He did not return a call for comment Monday.

The Front Street Pool has been run by the YWCA since 1997. YWCA executive director Rowie Taylor said Monday she had yet to see the suit and declined to comment. She said she is also awaiting a report from the state on the incident.

Ndabaze lived in the Bronx with her mother. She was in Schenectady Aug. 1 visiting her grandmother, who accompanied her to the pool. She was pulled from the pool unresponsive at about 1:30 p.m. that day. Lifeguards attempted to resuscitate her, but she was pronounced dead at Ellis Hospital.

What may be a central issue in the case is exactly how many children were in the pool at the time.

Officials have said that three lifeguards were on duty, with two watching as many as 50 swimmers and one keeping tabs on those out of the water. A fourth was on break.

Schenectady County guidelines call for one guard per 30 swimmers, regulations that themselves exceed other standards, officials said. The Front Street pool exceeded those, according to those numbers.

The suit estimates the number of children using the pool at between 80 and 90, a number that would still appear to fall within county guidelines.

The suit, however, makes the first reference to the children’s wading pool and it’s alleged closure.

“The defendants compounded the danger to [Ndabaze] by forcing and crowding the young children into said hazardous condition, and then failed to provide adequate supervision and sufficient lifeguards to reasonably care for their safety,” the suit reads.

Named as defendants and lifeguards are Tyler S. Bellick, Ronelle McGlothan and Sara Dipietro.

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