The father of a 13-year-old boy who drowned while on a school field trip with Lewiston Middle School is suing the city of Lewiston and the state of Maine.
Ali Abdisamad filed the lawsuit against the city and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in U.S. District Court, according to the Sun Journal.
His son, Ryan Issa, was a seventh grader at Lewiston Middle School when he attended the field trip to Range Pond State Park in Poland on June 12, 2018.
He had been playing football with classmates in a roped-off area of the pond when he went under water, Chief Deputy William Gagne, of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, said at the time of the incident.
His friends immediately alerted the on-duty state park lifeguard and a group of school chaperones who were onshore, Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said.
The field trip had 111 students in attendance, with 11 chaperones and one lifeguard on duty at the time of Issa’s drowning.
The complaint states that a team leader from the school discussed “ground rules” with the students, but that neither the lifeguard nor anyone else representing the state, which owns the park, spoke to students about safety, the Sun Journal reports.
The complaint also states that witnesses said the lifeguard on duty “appeared not to know what to do in the situation and asked chaperones to get in the water” to help look for Issa, according to the Sun Journal.
According to the school’s own investigation, when Issa went under, the team leader, five adult chaperones and a lifeguard were watching students playing in the water from the beach, and none of them saw Issa in trouble.
According to the investigation, students who were playing football in the water with Issa saw him go after the football into deep water.
They then saw him struggling for a brief period of time before he went under and did not come back up.
The investigation found that instead of immediately telling teachers what had happened, a student simply reported him missing, other students suggested he might have gone to the bathroom, and no one could pinpoint exactly where he was last in the water.
At 12:17 p.m., firefighters found the unconscious seventh-grader and tried to resuscitate him onshore, according to Gagne. He was then rushed to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where he was pronounced dead, he said.
The lawsuit filed by Abdisamad claims Lewiston and Maine are responsible for Issa’s wrongful death and for denying him due process for failing to follow their protocols and standard procedures, according to the Sun Journal. The lawsuit seeks “reasonable” compensation for damages that include medical, surgical and hospital care; treatment and funeral expenses; and pain and suffering and the loss of comfort, society and companionship of the boy’s relatives.
“We grieve for this family. Words are insufficient to meet their needs and we’ll be reaching out to see how we can best support them,” Webster said at the time of the incident. “Clearly we didn’t meet the parent expectations on this trip and that is a real tragedy.”
Issa was Somali, but the slips were only in English. Also, nowhere did the slip ask if a student knew how to swim.