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Testimony Gathered in Campground Death Suit

August 20, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

The first testimony has been gathered in the wrongful death suit involving the death of a 4-year-old boy at Bowling Green, Ky., Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground, The Daily News reported.

Four witnesses have given depositions in the suit filed last year by Valen Humphrey, the mother of Triston Morrison, who was found drowned in the bottom of the KOA swimming pool on June 13, 2009.

Warren Circuit Judge Steve Wilson, who is hearing the case, granted a motion Monday (Aug. 16) to have the case go before trial, but no trial date has been scheduled.

“Where we’re at is we’re still in the discovery process,” said Bowling Green attorney Mike Breen, who is representing Humphrey. “We’ll be scheduling another round of discovery depositions.”

Humphrey’s suit names as defendants the park’s owners, Danny and Yvonne Goad, along with Paul and Susan Von-Webb, the managers of property to whom the Goads leased the campground with an option to buy. Three Springs Management Group LLC and Kampground Management LLC, companies the Goads formed while they were the facility’s operators, are also named as defendants.

The complaint claims that Humphrey took her son and two daughters to the campground for a birthday party with relatives, and that Morrison was able to access the pool because the latch on the gate to the pool was broken.

The suit also claims family members couldn’t find Triston after he went missing because the water in the pool was too dirty for them to see to the bottom. Triston was discovered by a swimmer who bumped into his body.

In testimony given during a June 29 deposition, Humphrey said she informed relatives that she was feeling unwell and left the party, placing her children in the hands of other family members.

Humphrey’s uncle, Joe Green — who helped organize the birthday party and used to live at the camp, sometimes helping the Goads maintain the pool until he left the camp in 2001 — said most of the members of the party traveled in three vehicles to the pool on that day, while Green remained at the campsite.

Green testified that he had been at the campsite since the day before the party and had noticed that the water in the pool seemed “cloudy.”

In the aftermath of the drowning, the state Division of Public Health Protection and Safety shut down the pool for an extended period following a June 16, 2009, inspection in which numerous violations were discovered.

Bowling Green attorney Thomas Kerrick, representing the Von-Webbs and Kampground Management Group, said he and other attorneys for the defense are still in the process of gathering information in the case.

“We’re in the middle of investigating what took place and trying to find witnesses,” Kerrick said.

The defendants have denied liability on their part, claiming in court documents that Humphrey and/or Morrison was trespassing on the property during the time of the event and that Humphrey is unqualified or improperly qualified to administer Triston’s estate and should not be allowed to file suit on his behalf.

Danny and Yvonne Goad are the only other witnesses who have testified in depositions so far. The Goads were in Michigan on the day of the incident, according to testimony.

Danny Goad said in his deposition that he disputed several of the findings in the report made by Jan Brown of the Division of Public Health Protection and Safety’s Swimming and Bathing Facilities Section that led to the extended shutdown of the pool.

The report, which provides the basis for the bulk of the suit, listed violations, including the failure of the entrance gate to the pool to self-latch, cloudy water, the pool’s main drain not being visible and the lack of a sign posted on the gate stating that no one may enter the facility alone or swim alone.

Goad said he believed the pool was in compliance with all state requirements when he arrived at the campsite the day after the drowning, pointing out that there was a sign advising the rules of conduct posted and visible to the public on fencing adjacent to the pool gate.

Goad also testified that he did not put together a written policies and procedures manual for the facility during his tenure as its manager, saying that he followed a chart that laid out testing requirements that had been created before he bought the property.

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