Family Attorney Calls for Accountability after St. Louis Park Drowning

Updated: 04/19/2014 9:35 AM
Created: 04/18/2014 4:17 PM
By: Tom Durian

A new report sheds light on the last minutes of the life of a St. Louis Park boy who was pulled from his school’s swimming pool.

Twelve-year-old Abdullahi Charif died after an incident during a Physical Education class at St. Louis Park Middle School.

The report, which is more than 100-pages long, contains the materials Hennepin County prosecutors reviewed before deciding not to file any charges. It states Charif and more than 20 other students were taking part in a free day. Some of them were playing with a basketball; others were playing a game called "King of the Hill" on a large raft. The idea of the game is to push others off into the water.

The teacher says he never saw Charif in the deep end of the pool, but other swimmers say they saw the boy playing and being pushed off the raft in the deep end. It wasn't until the pool was cleared and students were on their way to the locker room that a problem was discovered.

According to the documents, P.E. Teacher James Bigot found a single pair of shoes. He asked who they belonged to and students answered Abdullahi. That's when the teacher returned to the pool area and found the child at the bottom of the pool.

Bigot removed the child from the pool and started to perform C.P.R. He then radioed for emergency medical assistance.

Also in the documents was a Hennepin County pool inspection report taken the day of the drowning. Several minor violations were mentioned, the biggest of which may be the poor lighting at the pool. Well below the recommended level.

The family's attorney Eric Hageman said in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, "It is unacceptable for a teacher 'supervising' a swim class - but which even the teacher acknowledges was just a 'free play' session - to allow children who were non-swimmers or poor swimmers to play 'king of the hill' on a large raft in a 9-foot deep pool. Yet that's what happened here, with the ensuing tragedy a predictable result of that lack of supervision. We need to expect that teachers will be there to protect our children. But in this case that didn't happen."

Hageman also said "the family is focused on there being some sort of accountability."

The St. Louis Park School District says their investigation is ongoing and that they would not release a statement at this time.


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