The attorneys for a 23-year-old Chinese man who suffered irreversible brain damage and remains in a coma after going into an indoor pool at a YMCA in Stamford have sued the facility for $35 million.
Zhaojie Yang, a student from China studying business at the Stamford branch of the University of Connecticut, went into the deep end of the Stamford YMCA pool at 10 Bell St.
William Bloss, Yang’s attorney, said there were two lifeguards on duty at the time, but they were not positioned properly at the pool when the incident occurred in October 2017. Yang filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Bloss, of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, told the Connecticut Law Tribune on Wednesday that both male lifeguards were standing together at the shallow end of the pool, when they should have been on opposite ends.
“The lifeguards being out of position was the major problem,” Bloss said. “One of them should have been at the deep end because it’s the only way to keep an eye out on the entire pool. It’s not a small pool. The lifeguards need to be spaced, and you do not have coverage of the pool if two people are in the same place.”
Bloss said medical records show that Yang, who is now back home in China, was underwater for between one and five minutes before he was rescued. “Generally speaking, you do not get irreversible brain damage by being underwater for one minute with successful CPR,” the attorney said. “I think he was probably underwater for closer to five minutes. That is more consistent with the medical evidence.”
The lawsuit also states that the YMCA failed to adhere to its own 10-by-10 reaction rule, designed to quickly aid a swimmer in distress.
“They are supposed to be able to recognize a problem at the pool within 10 seconds and then do the rescue within 10 seconds after that,” Bloss said. “This is a tragic situation and clearly a drowning, or a near-drowning, in a guarded pool simply should never happen.”
The Stamford YMCA is represented by Steven Getzoff, a partner with the New York City-based Lester Schwab Katz & Dwyer. Getzoff declined to comment Wednesday. The national YMCA’s general counsel, Karyn Boston, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Meanwhile, Bloss said he has been in communication with Yang’s parents in China.
“He was their only child,” the attorney said. “You send your child to a foreign country to study and there is that phone call that comes that is every parent’s worst nightmare. It was devastating.”
Judge Alvin Thompson in Hartford will hear the case.
Ximiao Jiang, a friend of Yang’s parents, will serve as conservator.