A 14-year-old Oregon girl was found drowned under a public swimming pool cover after a team practice in 2019. Now, her family is suing the city, the school district and pool equipment businesses for negligence that led to her wrongful death.
The Maazouz family’s $70 million lawsuit comes almost two years after the death of their daughter Nabila Maazouz, who was a freshman at Oregon Episcopal School and a member of the Liberty High School swim team.
On November 20, 2019, the team held an outdoor practice at Shute Park Aquatic and Recreation Center in Hillsboro. When practice was over, the coach instructed swimmers to cover the pool. According to the lawsuit filed on October 5, the covers are heavy and create suction when rolled onto the water.
Maazouz and other swimmers took one of the pool covers and swam with it to the deep end of the pool. The group then swam back toward the other end of the pool under the cover and grabbed a second one, according to the lawsuit. Then, they swam with it back to the deep end and placed it next to the first cover.
The team swam under the second cover but Maazouz never resurfaced. Her teammates continued to cover the pool without noticing that she was missing, the lawsuit said. Coaches didn’t notice either.
With the pool completed covered, the lights were turned off and everyone left. Patricia Maazouz, the girl’s mother, was waiting in the parking lot for her when she noticed others were leaving but her daughter was not with them.
According to the lawsuit, she then entered the facility and asked coaches and staff where her daughter was. They began searching the property and found 14-year-old Maazouz dead in the pool’s deep end around 25 minutes after practice.
Court documents allege that Maazouz became trapped underneath the ThermGard pool covers because their design is “unreasonably dangerous.” It continued that the covers’ warnings on the dangers of their use violated industry standards.
Universal Filtration Inc., the manufacturer of the ThermGard pool cover, and BK Reilly & Co., the seller of the cover doing business as The Pool and Spa House, were named as defendants in the lawsuit, KOIN reported.
The city’s parks and recreation department and the Hillsboro School District were accused of being negligent for allowing the use of the pool covers, allowing swimmers to swim under the covers, and for not properly training swimmers and staff about how to use the covers safely. The lawsuit also alleges negligence for not having lifeguards on duty and because no one noticed that Maazouz did not resurface.
“Our hearts remain with the Maazouz family and everyone in our community who has been devastated by the tragic death of Nabila,” said Patrick Preston, a city spokesperson, in a statement. “The City of Hillsboro is committed to caring for the safety and well-being of all community members at all city facilities. Because this is pending litigation, we will not be issuing additional comments.”
Hillsboro officials from the city and the school district told Pamplin Media Group they discussed procedural changes for swim practices in the days following Maazouz’s death. This included only allowing facility staff to cover the pools after practices for the rest of the swim season and providing a lifeguard or designating a coach with an appropriate certification as a lifeguard at every practice.
Beth Graser, a spokesperson for the school district, told KOIN she visited the facility for the first time since Maazouz’s death to attend a water polo game last week and “experienced a rush of emotions and sadness thinking about loss” of the young girl.
“Nabila’s death was a tragedy that we are all still grieving. Our hearts and thoughts continue to go out to her family and all who knew her,” Graser said. She declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Newsweek reached out to the city of Hillsboro but did not hear back by the time of publication.