Chinese couple to sue Aquatic Centre over son's death

A couple from China plans to sue the Canada Games Aquatic Centre for negligence over the possible drowning death of their teenaged son last year.

Parents of Yifan (Jason) Wang want answers

Yifan (Jason) Wang died two days after being pulled from the pool unresponsive. (Courtesy of Brenan's Funeral Home)

A couple from China plans to sue the Canada Games Aquatic Centre for negligence over the possible drowning death of their teenaged son last year.

Yifan (Jason) Wang had just moved to Saint John as an international student when he went to the centre’s pool with some friends on Sept. 18 for the public swim.

It’s still unclear what happened, but the 17-year-old was pulled from the pool unresponsive and died two days later in the intensive care unit at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

A year is too long to wait for answers — particularly when it involves a public pool, says Rod Gillis, who is representing the teen’s parents, who live in China and don’t speak English.

"This was, what appeared to be a person in a good state of health, with no explanation as to what took place," said Gillis.

He contends there should be a coroner’s inquest.

"Because of the public concern, there really should have been an inquest some time ago to allow the public to understand what was right, what was wrong," Gillis said.

No head injury

Hospital charts showed no sign of facial or head trauma, he said.

That "would lead us to believe initially that it wasn't a question of hitting the bottom, or hitting the side and knocking himself out.

"This individual did drown. And the mechanism of how it happened, how long it took to happen, what took place by way of observation of somebody struggling in the water for awhile, why he was left under the water so long.  When he was actually pulled out, was any resuscitation done? If not, why not?

Lawyer Rod Gillis says there should be a coroner's inquest. ((CBC))

"There's an awful lot of questions that are yet to be answered — and we will get the answers at some time," he said.

The lawsuit will help force the disclosure of records related to the case, said Gillis.

A coroner’s report has not yet been released.

He has also requested the Aquatic Centre's surveillance tapes, as well as any records about lifeguard staffing and training, but has not yet received a response, he said.

Gillis is "not impressed.

"This is a public centre with paid admission where children go and you expect, as a parent, to have them watched over and taken care of. And if there’s a deficiency, it should have been addressed long ago."

Any recommendations from a coroner’s inquest jury could help prevent future deaths at pools across the province, he said.

Procedures followed

The chair of the Aquatic Centre’s commission, Colleen Kemp Mitchell, said the commission has co-operated with every request from the coroner's office.

But she declined an interview until after the coroner’s report is released.

Department of Public Safety officials could not say when that might be.

Wang’s death was the first incident of its type in the Aquatic Centre's 26-year history.

At the time, then-commission chair Leo Maloney told CBC News the correct number of lifeguards were on duty, and correct procedures were followed.

Safety is a "core value" of the facility, he had said.

Asked if there should be a coroner’s inquest, he had said yes.

Maloney said there were six lifeguards working that day, as well as two supervisors and the pool was not as busy as normal, with only about 60 people, compared to the usual couple of hundred.

One of the lifeguards saw Wang underwater and motionless and signalled to two nearby lifeguards who put Wang on the deck on the bulkhead.

They called 911 and did CPR until paramedics took over and transported Wang to hospital.

Maloney said they knew where they found Wang, when they found him and in what condition, but didn't know what happened, or why it happened.

Security cameras did not pick up anything in the pool, he had said.