The family of a 16-year-old autistic teen has retained an attorney while demanding to know why he drowned during a school field trip despite having a teacher’s assistant (TA) assigned to supervise him on a full-time basis.
KTLA-TV reported that Erick Ortiz died while taking part in an excursion with other Garfield High School students to Atlantic Avenue Park, located near the school. The assistant had been working with Ortiz since 2012.
“Where was the TA?” Ortiz’s sister, Leslie Ortiz, said during a press conference on Thursday. “Why wasn’t he with him? Why wasn’t he taking care of him? Why wasn’t he doing his job?”
Family members said that the victim’s mother, Claudia Herrera, signed a permission slip for Ortiz to go on the field trip, she was not notified that the park contained a swimming pool. About 25 students were reportedly in the area of the pool at the time of Ortiz’s death.
“I want justice,” a distraught Herrera said on Thursday.
KCBS-TV reported that, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Ortiz reportedly jumped into the pool twice, then came back out.
Lifeguards later spotted Ortiz in the deep end of the pool, at which point they pulled him out and attempted to resucitate him, to no avail. Ortiz was later declared dead at a local hospital.
“Was my brother pushed, did he trip, did he fall in there?” KNBC-TV quoted Leslie Ortiz as saying. “But I mean whatever the circumstance was, where was everybody around him that couldn’t see what happened? There was a lot of people there.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District did not comment on the incident, except to release a statement saying it “extends heartfelt condolences to the family on its tragic loss.”
However, while the victim’s family has not indicated whether it will pursue legal action, attorney Luis Carrillo criticized the district’s response.
“How insensitive of Superintendent [John] Deasy or the district to talk about condolences when it was their horrible negligence that caused this enormous tragedy,” Carrillo said.
Watch KTLA’s report, as aired on Thursday, below.