Drowning lawsuit dropped against Glenview Park District

GLENVIEW — A Glenview family has agreed to dismiss a 2012 lawsuit charging the park district was at fault when their 4-year-son drowned in Roosevelt pool.

Vicente Emmanuel Cardenas, of 2387 Chestnut Ave., Glenview, was on a June 15 field trip at Roosevelt Pool with 19 young children and eight daycare teachers from Glenview-based Wesley Child Care when he went missing.

Another child noticed Cardenas at the pool’s bottom at about 2 p.m., face down in a fetal position and began yelling.

A lifeguard pulled him from the pool and paramedics performed CPR.

Cardenas was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled it an accidental drowning.

Attorney Ed Dutton, representing the Glenview Park District, said families and lawyers were not required to provide reasons for dismissing lawsuits.

The family’s attorney, Michael Carter, was unavailable for comment.

However, Dutton cited several arguments and facts in the case that he believed brought on the voluntary dismissal.

First, the plaintiff claimed the pool was unsafe because it had a deep end with more than 5 feet of water, but Dutton said the pool was only 0-5 feet deep.

Dutton also said the legal action wrongly stated the pool’s capacity had exceeded the limit with 1,359 patrons, which was the maximum number set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“We had 750 people that day — 50 percent below capacity, basically,” Dutton explained.

State health regulations also required eight lifeguards on duty, but 15 were working that day, of which 11 were stationed around the pool watching swimmers.

“No matter how you slice or dice it, enough lifeguards were there,” Dutton said.

He also said all lifeguards were properly trained by the park district, and the outside agency StarGuard had certified them.

“We argued the park district did all the right things, and also as a public entity it had certain statutory immunities.”

In 1965, he explained, Illinois legislators passed the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act that largely protected public agencies from getting sued by user residents.

For example, he said because private pools were not open to the public, park districts were encouraged to build pools.

“We have millions of visitors to public pools, and people getting hurt are inherit in recreation. Without tort law protection, these facilities would never get built,” said Dutton, who works for the Park District Risk Management Agency in Lisle.

Park district officials would not comment on the June 30 dismissal, and members of the Cardenas family could not be reached.

In September 2012, Glenview police closed a two-month investigation without filing charges against the park district.

The 85-page report indicated a Wesley teacher last saw Cardenas at the bottom of a pool slide, but was distracted by another child asking a question.

When she didn’t see Cardenas, the teacher asked others where he was and started walking toward the concession stand.

The report quoted a teacher who said Cardenas sometimes wandered off during activities.

Another teacher said about one minute passed from the time he was missing to when lifeguards responded.

Yet, the teacher who saw Cardenas near the water slide said five minutes had elapsed.

Attorney John Gilligan, representing Wesley Child Care, said Glenview police did a thorough investigation.

“Wesley Child Care was anxiously waiting for this report to come out so that the family’s questions could hopefully be better answered, as well as questions from the general public,” he said.

“I think all the questions can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction, but the basic facts around this unfortunate accident are known.”

The Cook County Department of Public Health on June 18 also discovered no pool violations.

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