A California lawsuit claims a football coach who was overseeing his student athletes swim in a school swimming pool was distracted by his cell phone when a 15-year-old student drowned during a school swimming lesson.
As reported by the East Bay Times, among other local outlets, San Ramon Valley High School (Danville, Calif.) head football coach Aaron Becker was overseeing a swimming lesson as part of a physical education class on May 8 when 15-year-old Ben Curry began struggling while treading water. After nearly four minutes of treading water, Curry began struggling and eventually drowned in the pool.
A new lawsuit brought by Curry’s parents, Karen and Thomas Curry, is holding the San Ramon Unified School District and Becker himself liable for their son’s death, in no small part because Becker was apparently distracted on his cell phone while Curry struggled and eventually succumbed to his exhaustion. The lawsuit from the Curry family charges both the school district and Becker himself with negligence and willful misconduct in connection with the younger Curry’s death.
Making matters more disturbing is just how long Becker went before noticing that Curry had slipped below the water in his plain sight, as laid out in the lawsuit:
“Defendant Becker, supervising these students without assistance, failed to notice that Benjamin Curry had slipped below the water surface well within his view, and recessed the class at the end of 4th period without checking to make sure that all of his students had safely left the pool. He then left the pool area without taking roll at the end of class, with Benjamin under the water, and Benjamin’s clothing and cell phone alongside the pool. 56 students left the pool that day with Benjamin under water.”
While some have questioned whether Curry’s death might be a suicide, a coroner’s autopsy report claimed there was no reason to believe the teenager’s death was anything other than a tragic accident.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a preventable accident, which may have become more clear based on new video footage that has been reviewed by the prosecution in the case.
“I’ve learned from reviewing the video and having it enhanced that it appears that the instructor was looking at his cell phone while standing on a diving board, when he should’ve been supervising the children,” said Andy Schwartz, lawyer for the Curry family. “If he was on his phone he probably was distracted. It’s one of those unanswered questions that the Currys would like to have answered.”