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Altadena Camp Where 6-Year-Old Drowned Will Reopen for Summer Session

Published on Monday, January 13, 2020 | 6:17 am
Six-year-old Roxie, the only child of Pasadena parents Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas, drowned in an Altadena summer camp swimming pool on June 28, 2019. Courtesy photo

The Director of Summerkids, the Altadena camp where a 6-year-old girl drowned last summer, said the camp plans to reopen for regular summer session on June 8.

In the email, Camp Director Cara DiMassa referred to the drowning as a “swimming accident” and said she and the rest of the DiMassa family are “still in grief.”

“There have been numerous inaccuracies about the incident in local media reports,” the email states. “Please know that we appreciate your support and are looking forward to summer.”

Roxie Forbes drowned at the camp on June 28. She was a non-swimmer.

Her parents, Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas, have filed a lawsuit against Summerkids.

The lawsuit names the owners and four members of the DiMassa family—and a number of others, including a licensed MD on the camp staff.

The suit alleges that the camp’s “negligent hiring, retention, supervision and training” practices led to the wrongful death of their only child. The parents are demanding a jury trial.

State documents show the California Dept. of Social Services substantiated an allegation that Summerkids has operated without a required license which the state says “poses an immediate health, safety or personal rights risk to children in care.”

According to the parents’ lawsuit, Roxie entered the camp pool June 28 at about 9:25 a.m., accompanied by her “counselor buddy,” Daniel H. “Hank” Rainey.

“Defendants, knew it was unsafe for Roxie to have full access to the pool, but the Summerkids Camp staff including counselors and lifeguards did nothing to actually restrict Roxie to the steps or shallow end. Rather than safeguard Roxie, Rainey and Joseph Natalizio were distracted and preoccupied with other campers prior to the tragic drowning,” the suit alleges.

“About ten to fifteen minutes after Roxie entered the swimming pool,” the complaint continued, “Robert Antonucci, a counselor who was working with other campers about thirty to forty-five feet outside the gate of the swimming pool was the first person to finally notice Roxie floating face down in the pool. When Robert Antonucci saw Roxie, she was floating approximately twenty feet away from the steps in four to four-and-a-half feet of water.”

“Roxie Mirabelle Forbes tragically perished,” the complaint reads, “not as a result of some unforeseen or unstoppable cause, but as a direct result of the grossly negligent and willful misconduct of the defendants.”

In an email to Pasadena Now, Forbes said DiMassa knows what happened to his daughter is not an accident.

“All first responder documents confirm the cause of death as drowning. She said ‘there have been numerous inaccuracies’ by media about the nature of the preventable drowning. This is a boilerplate response from a public person justifiably accused of considerable malfeasance,” Forbes said.

DiMassa’s email dedicates six paragraphs to hiring lifeguards and assessing swimmers.

“We will continue to maintain a healthy ratio of Certified American Red Cross Lifeguards to campers. All of our counselors—and all of our Lifeguards—are college-age students and older who undergo comprehensive training each year before camp begins and who are certified in adult and pediatric CPR/AED.”

“As always, parents are able to opt their campers out of swimming if they wish. Those campers will be able to enjoy other camp activities during swim periods,” DiMassa said.

Along with the legal action, Forbes and Matyas are pushing for legislation that protects camp goers and raises awareness of parents about drowning prevention.

“We received the first draft of our bill language from legislative counsel in Sacramento,” Forbes said. “We will likely introduce the bill with Senator Portantino in just a few weeks. After all, more than a million children are at camps that do not receive proper oversight.”

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