The case of a 15-year-old Vancouver boy who drowned last year while attending a church-run summer camp may soon be headed to court. Today’s Oregonian reports that the victim’s estate has filed a $13 million lawsuit against the camp and its organizers.
According to the paper, the boy died just over a year ago when he fell while walking behind the waterfall at White River Falls, near Maupin. A 26-year old counselor also drowned in the incident when he dove into the water in an attempt to save the boy.
Looking at this incident from a legal perspective a number of negligence issues arise and significant questions of responsibility. It is worth remembering that 15-year-olds are still children and require trained adult supervision when in an environment like a summer camp. The reports that the boy had been encouraged by the camp organizers to walk behind the waterfall are potentially very serious, and, if confirmed, they could be evidence of highly irresponsible behavior on the part of the camp’s organizers. At a very basic level, the fact that, based on the media reports, no one on the outing seems to have been wearing a life preserver or to have had any other life-saving gear on hand is deeply troubling.
Indeed, from a Portland wrongful death attorney’s perspective, the estate of the counselor may also have cause to file a claim against the churches and other organizers. If the organizers (i.e. the counselor’s employers) encouraged this dangerous activity but also failed to provide him with essential training and everyone (including the children) with safety equipment, then the ultimate responsibility for this tragedy lies with the churches rather than with the counselors who took the kids to White River Falls.
Any death or injury to a child is tragic. Preventable deaths and injuries, however, are especially difficult to hear or learn about. When parents send their children to camp it is essential that they have confidence in the staff’s training and in the safety measures in place, particularly during potentially dangerous activities.