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WILLIAMS v. UNITED STATES

May 7, 1987

Charles Williams, Administrator of the Estate of Don Williams, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
The United States of America, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROY

 Elsijane T. Roy, United States District Judge

 The plaintiff, Charles Williams, father of Don Williams, and administrator of his estate, brought this action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1346(b), 2671 et seq., to recover for the wrongful death of his son. The case was tried to the Court without a jury.

 Charles Williams is the natural father and administrator of the estate of Don Williams, deceased. He is a forty-six year old mechanic who, as a single parent, has had the primary responsibility for more than ten years of raising his two children, Don Williams, deceased, and Charles E. Williams, age 14. Charles and his ex-wife, Shirley Alexander, divorced in 1974 and she resides somewhere in Virginia. Don Williams had little or no contact with his mother or his sister during the last ten years of his life.

 Don Williams, deceased, was a 16 year-old eleventh grade student at Little Rock Central High School and a cadet in the high school's Air Force R.O.T.C. program.

 Don Williams was one of 49 high school R.O.T.C. cadets who attended the Junior R.O.T.C. Leadership School hosted by the Twenty-Second Air Force Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership School at the Little Rock Air Force Base from July 7 through July 12, 1985.

 The high school students were invited by the Air Force R.O.T.C. program to participate in the summer leadership program. Invitations were extended to students at the R.O.T.C. programs of high schools in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The curriculum and training activities were planned and directed by the personnel of the Little Rock Air Force Base.

 In order for Don Williams to participate in the Leadership Program held at the Little Rock Air Force Base, plaintiff, Charles Williams, signed an undated Student Data and Release form consenting to treatment in case of injury at the Air Force Hospital on the Little Rock Air Force Base and releasing the United States Air Force of any and all responsibility and/or liability for injury or death that might occur. Also, the cadets from Central High School were required to pay in advance Thirty Dollars ($ 30.00) which would cover the cost of their meals.

 The United States Air Force operates an Airman's Pool at the Little Rock Air Force Base and employs lifeguards at the pool when the pool is opened to authorized patrons for swimming activities.

 One of the activities of the R.O.T.C. Leadership School was a swimming party from 8:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on July 9, 1985 at the Little Rock Air Force Airman's Pool. The Airman's Pool is 122 feet 2 inches long and 70 feet wide. It is 11 feet deep at its deepest point, and a rope divides the deep and shallow ends of the pool. The pool is rectangular in shape with the length of the pool running east and west. There is a three (3) meter high diving board at the center of the deep end of the pool, and a one (1) meter low diving board on each side. There are ladders on each side of the deep end of the pool for exit. The pool has a capacity of 210 persons. The pool has three lifeguard stands, two at each side of the deep end of the pool and one at the shallow end of the pool.

 The Little Rock Air Force Base employs approximately five civilian lifeguards to provide for the safety of the patrons who utilize the pool. There is no chain of command among the lifeguards, and the manager of the pool has no lifesaver's training.

 
1. Divers must use the ladder to mount the diving boards;
 
2. Only one person is allowed on the diving board at a time;
 
3. Only one bounce on the end of the diving board is allowed;
 
4. Diving or jumping must be done from the end of the diving board;
 
5. Divers should not mount a ladder to use the high diving board until the previous diver has dived into the diving area;
 
6. Divers must wait for previous divers to move out of the diving area and toward the pool side ladder or exit point before diving;
 
7. Patrons must swim to the nearest ladder or exit point as soon as possible after diving;
 
8. Swimming in the diving area by patrons is not allowed.

 The high school R.O.T.C. cadets arrived at the pool on July 9, 1985 between 7:00 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. while other patrons were still using the pool. The total number of patrons at the Airman's Pool at the time of the incident in question at approximately 7:30 p.m. is estimated to be between 80 to 100 patrons.

 There were three lifeguards on duty. They were as follows: Jackie Pickels, age 18, in the high lifeguard stand on the north side of the deep end; Malcolm Koros, age 20, in the low lifeguard stand on the south side of the deep end; and Diane Lindsley, age 21, in a chair at the shallow end of the pool.

 After arriving at the Airman's Pool, Don Williams and other cadets, including Theresa Hodge and Joe Don Looney, went off the high diving board three or four times without any difficulty or incident. Don Williams was at least an average swimmer and enjoyed swimming. On the final occasion that Don Williams went off the high diving board, he went off with his arms extended as in a "swan" dive. Theresa Hodge was next in line at the bottom of the high diving board and Joe Don Looney was waiting his turn behind her. No one saw Don Williams actually enter the water, and no one observed what happened to him under the surface of the water.

 Theresa Hodge then went off the high diving board, and she was followed by Joe Don Looney. While diving off the board, Joe Don Looney thought he saw a person on the bottom of the pool, but was not sure. He swam to a ladder on the south side of the deep end, near the low lifeguard stand of Malcolm Koros, got out of the water, walked around to the edge of the pool by the high diving board and observed a body laying near the drain on the bottom of the pool. Joe Don Looney alerted Malcolm Koros, one of the lifeguards, and pointed the body out to him. Malcolm Koros didn't know if he saw Don Williams enter the water. After a brief conversation, Malcolm Koros left the guard stand and hurriedly went over to where Joe Don Looney was standing and then dived into the water to get Don Williams who was suspended just off the bottom of the pool in the diving area. Malcolm Koros lifted Don Williams from the bottom and surfaced with him asking for help from two or three individuals to lift Don Williams out of the pool.

 The Court finds that more than two minutes passed between the point in time that Joe Don Looney began to mount the steps to start his dive and his notification of the lifeguard, Malcolm Koros, that Don Williams was at the bottom of the pool in the deep end. The Court also concludes that at least one minute passed between the time that Don Williams entered the water and Joe Don Looney mounted the ladder to begin his dive since Theresa Hodge followed Don Williams off the diving board.

 After Don Williams was pulled out of the pool, Malcolm Koros went straight to the office and found someone already on the phone advising the hospital of the emergency. In the meantime, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was first begun by Jackie Pickels, the other lifeguard in the deep end, approximately 20 seconds after she arrived to check for a pulse. She erroneously notified the other lifeguards that she thought she had a pulse and did not clear the airway before she began her C.P.R. Jackie Pickels had not worked as a lifeguard before she was employed by the Little Rock Air Force Base in the summer of 1985 and had been working for slightly more than a month when this incident occurred. The Court concludes that at least a minute passed and probably more after Don Williams was ...


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