Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published August 12, 2014 at 6:10 PM | Page modified August 12, 2014 at 10:03 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments
  • Print

Hotel operator blocked from adding city to drowning suit

Seattle Hospitality attempted to draw the city of Seattle into the litigation as a second defendant, claiming firefighters “failed to use reasonable care” as they reopened a swimming pool without entering it, not knowing a hotel guest was still in the water.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
This is beyond odd. So a guy, who is a PhD candidate, and who cannot swim, decides to go for a swim and immediately... MORE
This whole thing would be comical if someone had not died. I mean what pool have any of us ever seen that you couldn't... MORE
And personal responsibility is........where?? MORE

advertising

A judge has ruled the city of Seattle should not be brought into a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who drowned in a swimming pool at the Quality Inn & Suites Seattle Center last summer.

Tesfay Girma Deboch’s family filed the wrongful-death suit against hotel operators Seattle Hospitality Inc. in January, alleging maintenance issues, including a faulty emergency shut-off for the pool’s drain and unusually murky waters, contributed to a failed rescue attempt by firefighters.

Seattle Hospitality responded by attempting to draw the city into the litigation as a second defendant, claiming firefighters “failed to use reasonable care” during the rescue as they reopened the pool without having entered it, not knowing Deboch was still in the water.

Deboch, 27, was a doctoral student at Washington State University. On June 30, 2013, he was staying in the Quality Inn with 13 classmates while in town for an economics conference. He and a friend, Pavan Dhanireddy, decided to go in the hotel pool.

Within moments of entering the water, Dhanireddy saw Deboch flailing and struggling to keep above water. Dhanireddy could not swim, so he ran to the hotel’s front desk and asked the attendant to call 911, he previously told The Seattle Times.

Firefighters arrived 2½ minutes later and scanned the pool with a rescue hook and a specialized thermal-imaging camera, but found no sign of a body. Believing the pool was clear, firefighters declared Deboch missing, canceled a dive team and told hotel employees they could reopen the pool, reports show.

But Deboch was still underwater. As swimmers began to re-enter the pool, Deboch’s friends continued the search, along with Tom Fleming, an off-duty firefighter vacationing at the hotel. After about 10 minutes of searching, Fleming found something. He asked the hotel to turn off the pool’s pump and pulled Deboch’s body from the center of the deep end.

By the time Seattle firefighters returned, it was too late. Deboch had drowned.

According to the suit, the underwater pump dragged Deboch to the bottom of the pool and held him there, which wouldn’t have happened if the emergency shut-off mechanism was working properly. The suit also alleges that cloudy waters hindered the firefighters’ ability to rescue Deboch.

Health inspectors previously closed the pool at least twice, including about a month before Deboch’s death, because the water had no chlorine and was cloudy. They closed it again after the drowning, citing safety hazards, including malfunctioning emergency shut-offs.

The hotel’s attorney filed the motion to include the city in the suit in June of this year, arguing the city should be on the hook for damages. The City Attorney’s Office denied the claim in a court filing. An attorney for Deboch’s family argued that the city was not liable, calling the action premature given that no judgment has been entered against Seattle Hospitality.

On July 25, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing granted the family’s motion to drop the city from the suit, offering no further explanation.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Seattle Times archives.Andy Mannix: amannix@seattletimes.com



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Local News

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Seattle Sketcher Book

Seattle Sketcher Book

Due to popular demand, the pre-sale price of $29.95 is extended until October 5!

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►