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Canada Province, Rotary Club deny responsibility for 12-year-old's drowning death after parents sue

16:25  23 november  2019
16:25  23 november  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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a person taking a selfie in a room: Beverly Park pictured in an undated photo supplied by her father. Beverly was 12 years old when she died after being sucked below the water's surface at Rotary Lake in Dawson Creek, B.C. Her parents have filed a lawsuit alleging her death was preventable.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Beverly Park pictured in an undated photo supplied by her father. Beverly was 12 years old when she died after being sucked below the water's surface at Rotary Lake in Dawson Creek, B.C. Her parents have filed a lawsuit alleging her death was preventable. The B.C. government has denied any responsibility for the drowning death of a 12-year-old girl in a swimming lake in the province's northeast, saying it didn't realize the suctioned drainpipe that dragged the girl underwater was easy for children to reach.

The province has filed a sweeping response to a lawsuit filed by Beverly Park's parents, claiming it was not in charge of safety at Rotary Lake in Dawson Creek, B.C., when the girl was sucked into the drain in front of her mother and twin brother in 2016.

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"The province denies any involvement in the chain of events which are said to have imperilled [Beverly Park]," read documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month.

A second defendant named in the lawsuit — the local Rotary Club which helped develop the man-made lake — has also denied liability, and says the girl was partly responsible for her own death.

Beverly Park's mother and father, Brandie and Todd Park, sued the province, club and city for negligence in October alleging those who ran the lake on the city's outskirts kept the "hazardous" area open too long, despite knowing the drainpipe was a threat to swimmers.

Beverly was playing with her twin brother and some friends in the lake at Mile 0 Park on Aug. 13, 2016 when they slid the lid off the drainpipe at the bottom of the lake, according to a coroner's report. Removing the cap created a vacuum, and Beverly's legs were sucked down into the drain. She was stuck with her head below the water.

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The Park family's claim said Beverly "was not budging from the drainpipe," even after her mother jumped in and tried to pull her free. The girl was unresponsive by the time suction was shut down.

Beverly died in hospital on Aug. 16, 2016.

2nd child death

The Parks believe Rotary Lake needed stronger regulation long before their daughter died, especially considering another child died in the same area 22 years earlier.

The lake was built in the early 1960s to provide a free gathering place for families in the city.

a little girl smiling at the camera: Beverly and her twin brother Lawrence pictured at an undated Christmas.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Beverly and her twin brother Lawrence pictured at an undated Christmas.

Artificial swimming facilities like pools and hot tubs usually need a licence to operate in B.C., but Rotary Lake — a water-filled concrete bowl with a single drainage pipe — was granted an exemption from provincial pool safety requirements in January 1989. At the time, the province said the lake didn't constitute a health hazard to the community.

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The designation meant the lake could operate without lifeguards or regular inspections from the regional health authority — much like a natural lake would.

In its response to the Parks' notice of civil claim, the province said the City of Dawson Creek took on all responsibility for the lake when the provincial exemption was granted, at the city's request, in 1989.

It added the province didn't know the drainpipe cover "was easily removable by children."

The government's response also said the death of a four-year-old child at Rotary Lake in 1994 wouldn't have flagged the provincial government to any hazards at the lake because officials ruled that child's death was an accident.

a group of people swimming in a body of water: Rotary Lake is a man-made swimming hole in Mile 0 Park in Dawson Creek, B.C. It was shut down after Beverly Park's death in 2016.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Rotary Lake is a man-made swimming hole in Mile 0 Park in Dawson Creek, B.C. It was shut down after Beverly Park's death in 2016.

Brandie Park said officials should have known better.

"For people to be able to neglect a pool in their community that they know is a problem, been a problem for years ... It's bizarre to me," Brandie said in an interview in October.

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"Why was this left by everybody?"

Rotary Club response

The Rotary Club of Dawson Creek is also named in the Parks' lawsuit because the club was involved in the development of the lake in the 1960s.

In its own legal response, the club "denies each and every allegation" made by the Parks. It said Beverly was, in part, responsible for her own death because she and the other children slid the bolts off the drainpipe lid themselves.

The Rotary Club response also said Beverly's parents failed to supervise her "properly or at all."

The province and the club both said responsibility for the lake lies with the City of Dawson Creek.

The city has not filed a response to the Parks' lawsuit in court. In an earlier statement to CBC News, a spokesperson said the municipality does not comment on ongoing litigation.

A spokesperson for the provincial Ministry of Health said the same on behalf of the province.

Rotary Lake was shut down after Park's death and remains closed. Northern Health sent a letter to city council this fall saying the lake cannot reopen until any health hazards are addressed.

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