By Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant
MANCHESTER — A $1.725 million settlement has been approved in the drowning of a Manchester High School student in the school pool in 2012, the town attorney said Sunday.
Manchester Probate Court Judge Michael Darby approved the settlement in the death of Malvrick Donkor, Town Attorney Ryan Barry said. During a swmming class, the 14-year-old freshman sank to the bottom of the pool, where he stayed for about 17 minutes before anyone noticed him, police have said. A police investigation concluded that the drowning was “tragic at best,” and there was no probable cause for criminal prosecution.
Malvrick’s family had filed an intent to sue for wrongful death and damages, contending that school administrators and staff were negligent and failed “to protect, care, supervise, rescue and/or provide timely medical care” for Malvrick, a student in their care. Named as defendants in the intent to sue were Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel, high school Principal Matt Geary, high school athletics director Lindsey Boutilier and physical education teacher Thayer Redman, who was teaching the swimming class when Malvrick drowned.
The settlement releases the town from all claims, Barry said.
“The settlement was in the best interests of the town and (Malvrick’s) estate,” he said. “We wish the family well.”
In September 2013, the town board of directors paid a $250,000 deductible to the town’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency. CIRMA will pay the balance of the settlement, Barry said, and directors do not have to vote on the issue again.
Malvrick’s death was the second school drowning in the state in 2012. Marcum Asiamah, 15, drowned in the pool at East Hartford High School on Jan. 11, 2012. Town police investigated and applied for an arrest warrant charging a teacher with criminally negligent homicide and risk of injury to a minor, but prosecutors declined to sign the application. In January 2013, the East Hartford town council agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement to the family According to the settlement, CIRMA was to pay $1 million and the town was to pay a $500,000 deductible.
Malvrick, an immigrant from Ghana, was a fledgling swimmer who had stayed away from the deep end of the pool at Manchester High School, fellow students told police. But on the morning of Nov. 21, 2012, Malvrick left the safety of shallow water and walked to the end of the indoor pool where the water is 10 feet deep. He climbed in and sank to the bottom, while other students dived and swam above him.
By all accounts, the teacher in charge of the class, Redman, was safety-conscious and strict. Students told police that Redman had even mentioned the East Hartford drowning death earlier that year and said he never wanted to see such an accident at Manchester High.
As the class ended and students left the pool, one boy asked where Malvrick was. No one had seen him. Then, a female student noticed “a shadow” in the deep end. The girl saw that it was Malvrick and yelled for Redman, who was sitting nearby. He sprinted over, dived in and pulled the boy from the water, police said. Lifesaving efforts at the pool and at Manchester Memorial Hospital failed to revive the teenager. Redman was so distressed that he had to be taken to the hospital, police said.
The East Hartford and Manchester drownings prompted changes in pool safety throughout the state Kisiel, Manchester’s superintenent, said Sunday that swimming classes have resumed at the high school, with extra safety measures in place.