A lifeguard was in an office adjacent to the pool at a Garfield Ridge neighborhood high school when a 14-year-old boy with autism drowned earlier this year on the Southwest Side, the teen’s family says.
Rosario Gomez did not know how to swim when he went into the pool the afternoon of Jan. 25 with his special education class at Kennedy High School, 6325 W. 56th St., according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Chicago Board of Education by the boy’s mother, Yolanda Juarez.
Gomez was unsupervised as he moved toward the deep end of the pool, and his cognitive disabilities “made it harder for him to communicate when he was in trouble,” the suit says.
The lifeguard, who is not named in the suit, was using a computer in an office next to the pool when the boy went under, according to the suit, which says Gomez went unnoticed at the bottom of the pool “for a sufficient amount of time to render subsequent efforts at resuscitation unsuccessful.”
Gomez had been pulled out of the water by the time paramedics arrived, and he was taken to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn where he died at 2:18 p.m., authorities said. An autopsy found the West Elsdon resident had drowned and ruled his death an accident.
“The Chicago Public Schools family mourns the tragic loss of one of our students earlier today,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said at the time. “Our condolences go out to the student’s family, and our thoughts are with the entire Kennedy community. CPS is conducting a thorough investigation of the incident.”
Passman declined to comment Wednesday on the pending litigation.
Gomez, who also went by his middle name Israel, loved riding trains and going to school, according to a GoFundMe campaign that raised nearly $17,000 to cover funeral expenses. He is survived by his mother and sister, the suit says.
“His autism was what made him strong, what made him unique,” a description on the GoFundMe said. “His family was addicted to his charming ways.”
The two-count wrongful death suit claims Gomez should have received one-on-one training, been given a flotation device or at least been paired with a buddy under “constant supervision.” His family is seeking more than $100,000 in damages.