The family of a 7-year-old boy who drowned at a Boston summer camp is suing a state agency for failing to enforce a law that is intended to keep kids safe in the water, the NBC10 Boston Investigators have learned.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court blames the Department of Public Health (DPH) for never inspecting the summer camp to make sure it was conducting swim tests and providing life jackets for kids who couldn’t swim.
Kyzr Willis slipped out of sight during the drop-off program at the Curley Community Center in July 2016, setting off a frantic search.
Police found his body several hours later in 10-feet-deep water off Carson Beach in South Boston.
"Kyzr is never going to come back to us. Our pain will never go away. All we can do now is make sure that no one ever forgets the life that he lived or suffers in the same way," his mother, Melissa Willis, told NBC10 Boston.
According to the lawsuit, the summer camp was not following water safety rules required by "Christian’s Law," a 2012 statute named after the drowning death of a 4-year-old Sturbridge boy, Christian Frechette.
The state law mandates Coast Guard-approved flotation devices be provided to all non-swimmers and at-risk swimmers at programs or camps that perform swimming activities at marine or freshwater beaches.
It also requires swim tests, and orders programs to issue color-coded wristbands, indicating their level of swimming ability.
None of these things happened for Willis, the lawsuit claims.
Family attorneys Robert Griffin and Vikas Dhar requested copies of any inspections conducted by DPH between 2012 and 2017 at the Curley Community Center. No records were available showing the agency checked for compliance with "Christian’s Law," the lawsuit said.
"We are now demanding that the Department of Public Health to do a better job of providing statewide oversight on applying Christian’s Law properly to keep children safe when they participate in city-sponsored programs near swimming pools and open bodies of water," Griffin said.
NBC10 Boston contacted DPH about the allegations in the lawsuit and is awaiting a response. Along with the state agency, the lawsuit also names Commissioner Monica Bharel as a defendant.
In the wake of the tragedy, the City of Boston implemented a number of safety improvements at the summer program.
Last April, the City of Boston settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family for $5 million.