The father of a 15-year-old boy who drowned during a school-sponsored pool party at the Temple Terrace Family Recreation Center in September is suing the city and Pepin Academy.
Tampa attorney Cory Baird filed the lawsuit on May 17 on behalf of his client, Skelford Conrad Shillingford, who is the father of Kadeem Jesse Shillingford of Clair-Mel City.
Pepin Academy, a charter school for children with learning-related disabilities, was hosting a back-to-school party at the recreation center, 6610 Whiteway Drive. Jesse, who attended Pepin, was at the party.
The lawsuit alleges officials with Pepin Academy and the recreation center were negligent in providing supervision during the pool party.
The boy's body was discovered at the bottom of the swimming pool at the recreation center the night of Sept. 21. Jesse spent three days on life support at Florida Hospital Tampa before he died.
“It was a tragic case, and it could have been avoided,” Baird said. “We don’t believe they properly supervised the children that were there.”
Pepin officials knew Jesse wasn’t a good swimmer before the pool party, Baird said. But Jesse’s parents had been told he would be fine.
“There were many failures here,” Baird said.
Pepin Academy and recreation center representatives “did not provide reasonable safety” to protect Jesse, the lawsuit says. Recreation center lifeguards and other personnel were available to ensure the guests would remain safe while using the pool.
Pepin employees and chaperones also were on hand to provide a safe environment for the children, Baird said.
About 130 to 150 students, teachers and parents attended the private back-to-school party.
Three lifeguards, who were part-time city employees, were on duty to watch the swimmers.
While the partygoers splashed about in the water, a DJ played music and entertained at poolside.
About 8:45 p.m. a child told a lifeguard there was someone at the bottom of the pool.
The lifeguard found the boy at the bottom and pulled him out of the water. The lifeguards performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation until police officers and emergency medical personnel arrived.
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office's released a report that concluded the death was an accidental drowning.
The Temple Terrace Police Department found no indication of foul play after reviewing a surveillance video of the swimming pool area, officials said.
Jesse's parents and officials from Pepin Academy could not be reached for comment.
Temple Terrace City Attorney Mark Connolly said it was his understanding the city’s insurer had retained Apopka attorney Donovan Roper to represent the city on the matter.
Roper could not be reached for comment.