The parents of a 16-year-old autistic boy who drowned during a field trip in East Los Angeles have sued Los Angeles Unified School District, their attorney announced Thursday.
Erick Ortiz, a special needs student at Garfield High School, was assigned constant one-on-one supervision and should have been under an assistant’s care when he died June 4, according to his family.
But while on a school field trip at Los Angeles County-operated Atlantic Avenue Park, he was pulled from the water of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. He could not be resuscitated and was declared dead at a hospital.
His mother Claudia Herrera, who sobbed at a news conference announcing the lawsuit Thursday, had signed a permission slip for the trip but no swimming had been indicated to her, according to the family.
Erick Ortiz did not know how to swim. He was pulled from the pool with his clothes and shoes on, his sister had said.
A lawsuit filed by attorney Luis Carrillo, who has represented other LAUSD families against the school district, alleged negligence, breach of duty, and wrongful death, among other claims.
The lawsuit, which also named Garfield High Principal Jose Huerta and special education assistant Jose Lopez, seeks unspecified damages.
“The people that are responsible for this enormous tragedy … should be fired from their jobs,” Carrillo said.
The defendants took Ortiz “into a dangerous environment which included obvious and apparent hazards, risks and dangers not apparent to inexperienced swimmers and special needs children such as decedent Ortiz,” the complaint states.
Lopez was assigned to be Erick Ortiz’s one-on-one assistant after a 2012 district-approved individualized education program, according to the lawsuit.
Ortiz had previously been injured in January while in the care of Lopez, according to the lawsuit, which did provide details about those allegations.
On Thursday, family members accused Lopez of being at a DJ booth at the park when Ortiz fell into the pool.
“Is he able to live his life knowing what he did caused my brother’s death?” Leslie Ortiz said. “Is he able to smile, laugh, have a normal life? Because we haven’t.”
No one from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide bureau, which was investigating the death, was able to comment.
David Holmquist, general counsel for LAUSD, said in a statement that the district could not comment specifically on the lawsuit. The district “community of educators” works to ensure a safe learning environment, he said.
“We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement should there be any further inquiry,” Holmquist said. “Our hearts and sympathies continue to be with the family.”