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Parents of Girl Who Drowned at Summerkids Camp File Lawsuit, Call for Camp Legislation

— February 27, 2020

Summercamp Kids in Altadena recently came under fire in a lawsuit alleging it’s negligent hiring practices caused the wrongful death of six-year-old Roxie Forbes.

The parents of a six-year-old who drowned at Summercamp Kids in Altadena are suing the camp owners over negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and training that led to the wrongful death of their daughter, Roxie Forbes. In addition, the couple is working with local state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, to introduce legislation that would license summer camps so incidents like the one that claimed their daughter’s life don’t happen again.

Image of a drowning warning sign
Drowning warning sign; image courtesy of
OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay,

The fatal incident happened back on June 29 at the summer camp. Around 9:20 a.m., Roxie entered a pool at the camp with her designated ‘buddy’ counselor, Daniel Rainey, “who the camp represented as a certified lifeguard. Roxie had a buddy counselor due to her gross motor delay. Her parents, Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas, said that delay meant “she walked a little slower, ran a little less gracefully and jumped a little lower.” As a result of that delay, Roxie was also designated a nonswimmer but was allowed to enter the pool that day nonetheless. 

In addition to Daniel Rainey being present with Roxie, another lifeguard, Joseph Natalizo, was also on duty to watch over the entire pool. The suit argues that even though the staff “knew it was unsafe for Roxie to have full access to the pool, it did nothing to actually restrict Roxie to the steps or shallow end…Rather than safeguard Roxie, Rainey and Natalizo were distracted and preoccupied with other campers prior to the tragic drowning.”

About 10 to 15 minutes after entering the pool, Roxie was floating face down and was found by a different counselor “working with campers about 30 to 45 feet outside the gate of the swimming pool.” According to that counselor, Roxie was floating “approximately 20 feet away from the steps and the shallow end of the pool, in about 4 feet of water,” and neither Rainey nor Natalizo appeared to notice. The suit states, “The lifeguards and/or counselors present…were completely oblivious and demonstrated a conscious disregard for Roxie.” It added that the DiMassa family, the family that owns the camp, was ultimately at fault because their “negligent hiring and incompetent personnel failed to adequately provide a safe environment for campers.”

As a result of the tragic incident, Roxie’s parents are seeking unspecified damages and claim they have suffered extreme emotional damage due to losing a child so unexpectedly. Additionally, they are seeking “exemplary and punitive damages to make an example of and punish the camp and its owners.” The suit further states:

“The DiMassas’ conduct should be the subject of shame, scorn, and rebuke…Such an outrageous lack of care represents an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct in the context of this situation…This conduct resulted in Roxie’s death.”

Director Cara DiMassa — daughter of the camp’s founders, Joe and Maria DiMassa — acknowledged to Matyas that her daughter “needed special attention and assured her that (the camp was) qualified and able to provide this special attention,” the suit says.


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