TEMPLE TERRACE — City recreation officials once took at face value the number of people that organizers said would attend pool parties at the Family Recreation Center.
But now, said City Manager Gerald Seeber, the city is careful to follow-up, making sure of the head count, so it can bring in extra lifeguards if necessary.
That's the main policy change imposed in the aftermath of the September 2012 drowning of Kadeem Jesse Shillingford in the city pool. It's an effort "to do our best to ensure that a tragedy like that never happens again,'' Seeber said.
The 15-year-old mildly autistic student at Pepin Academy lay on the bottom of the pool for five minutes before anyone noticed him during the night-time back-to-school party. Security cameras showed the youngster, who could not swim, going down the slide in the deep end and struggling in the water before sinking. Another child finally spotted him. He spent four days on life support before dying.
The city's insurance company paid $450,000 in a settlement last month of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the boy's father, Skelford Conrad Shillingford, according to the attorney who represented the city, Donovan Roper of Apopka. Roper said Pepin Academy, also named in the lawsuit, paid $425,000 in the settlement. Officials at Pepin Academy, a charter school for kids with learning-related disibilities, could not be reached for comment.
In the suit, Shillingford charged that lifeguards were not attentive, the water was cloudy, the lighting insufficient and the pool not suited for swimming at night. The father also charged Pepin with negligence, stating that the school staff knew that the boy could not swim and assured the father that he would be properly supervised.
Philip Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3435.