Family of Student Who Drowned at Community Pool Settles Lawsuit
Princeton is set to pay the family of Colin Simonelli, 24, who drowned in a community pool last summer $1.75 million to settle their lawsuit filed in Mercer County civil court against the town, according to the family’s attorney, Neil Weiner of the Lynch Law Firm in Hasbrouck Heights.
In August of last year, Simonelli was at the community pool with his father, Anthony, when he lost consciousness and went under in four feet of water. He was discovered after six minutes and was pulled out by fellow swimmers. The lifeguards on duty that day failed to prevent the accident, according to Colin’s family.
Municipal administrator Marc Dashield said Simonelli was found unresponsive around 2 p.m. Lifeguards pulled him out and tried to administer CPR to no avail. Simonelli died that evening at a nearby hospital. Dashield went on to explain that all safety protocols had been followed and that no less than a dozen lifeguards were on duty that day in total. Two were in the main pool area where Simonelli was.
“It’s a tragedy for the family, we feel badly for the family,” he said.
Princeton agreed to pay the settlement fee via the town’s insurer, Joint Insurance Fund, at the end of last month, on October 30th, while the case was still in the discovery phase.
The family’s suit alleged the town was negligent in Colin’s death and that the boy had undergone conscious pain and suffering after struggling to stay afloat in the community pool and eventually becoming submerged at the bottom of the pool “for a prolonged period of time.”
In the suit, the family specifically claimed the town had failed to “provide adequate lifeguard service” and to “commence a timely rescue effort.” The filing also argued that lifeguards were incorrectly positioned on the same side of the pool rather than across from each other and because they had the same line of sight, they were unable to see the incident in time.
Colin’s father claimed to have suffered emotional distress by witnessing his son’s demise, as well. He stated that after having seen his son “struggle to survive and then die while at Community Park Pool Complex,” he “has suffered and will continue to suffer from severe, permanent mental pain and anguish and has and will incur mental, health and medical expenses to treat his severe and emotional distress…”
Princeton’s defense attorney, Patrick Carrigg of the Lenox Law Firm in Lawrenceville, disputed the claim that Colin had experienced any conscious pain and suffering.
A plaintiff’s expert determined that Simonelli had indeed fainted and the town’s defense argued he had experienced a cardiac event that caused him to go underwater. Weiner said the autopsy report revealed that Colin had an enlarged heart, but the official cause of death was drowning. After a month-long investigation and a final determination on the cause of the student’s death was made, police closed the case.
A 2010 alumnus of Princeton High School and a junior at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Colin is survived by his parents, two brothers and other relatives.