DANVILLE (KPIX 5) — A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Tuesday claiming that a school PE instructor was distracted while supervising 15-year-old Benjamin Curry, who drowned in the pool during PE class.
Curry’s family filed the suit against PE teacher Aaron Becker and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District for the incident, which occurred in May at San Ramon Valley High. The suit was filed by the family after enhanced surveillance video gave potential clues as to why the tragedy happened.
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“It appears to us that the teacher had his cell phone in his hand was looking at his cell phone as he was supervising the children. We’re not certain it was a cell phone but it sure looks like a cell phone, and that’s one of the questions we want answered,” said Andy Schwartz, attorney for the Curry family.
Schwartz would not release the surveillance camera footage to the media, but he says it shows Becker, who is also the school’s head football coach, standing on a diving board watching the 57 kids in the class tread water for three minutes.
“At some point, when one of the children touched the lane lines, or ropes, he increased the three minutes to three and a half minutes. If you look at the clock on the wall that’s on the video, it was closer to four minutes,” explained Schwartz.
At some point, Curry slipped under the water and somehow the teacher and other students all left the pool without noticing he was gone.
Curry’s body was discovered in the pool more than an hour later by another swim class.
The tragedy hit the entire campus hard and the family is demanding to know what happened and if the coach was surely distracted by a cell phone. The new evidence has changed some people’s minds about who is at fault.
“That definitely changes things I would say,” said Jacob Nearon, a San Ramon Valley High senior.
“Because you’re supposed to be paying attention to the kids in the pool. If they’re treading for three minutes, then I would say that’s what your full attention should be on.”
Schwartz went on to say that the 57 students in the pool at once was a “ridiculous amount” for one teacher to supervise.
“Most other school districts don’t allow these kinds of classes without teachers and lifeguards,” he said.
The San Ramon Valley Unified School District says it has suspended using swimming pools in any of its PE classes and now requires a dedicated and certified life guard any time a district pool is in use.
The school district also told KPIX 5 that they couldn’t comment on the pending lawsuit by the Curry family. However, they did release a statement saying:
‘The district sincerely apologizes to the Curry family and all community members. There are no words to describe the collective sorrow following the loss of Ben.”
Schwartz says a trial date could be set for sometime in 2019. He also says the family will use the legal process as a way to finally determine what exactly happened on the day of Curry’s death.