9-year-old in coma after near-drowning at water park

9-year-old in coma after near-drowning at water park

KINSTON, LENOIR COUNTY - A 9-year-old boy who nearly drowned at a Kinston water park is in a coma more than a week after the accident, according to a law firm representing the family.

Taft, Taft & Haigler in Greenville said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon that 9-year-old Jaekwon Williams remains in a coma at Vidant Medical Center.

The boy nearly drowned at Lions Water Adventure --at 2602 W. Vernon Ave. in Kinston-- on Aug. 11, said the Kinston Department of Public Safety.

Jaekwon was with the City of Rocky Mount's Williford Summer Day Camp, and was on a field trip to the water park when the near-drowning happened, according to Taft, Taft & Haigler.

Jaekwon, who could not swim, was found unconscious at the bottom of a 7-foot-deep lap pool, said the law firm. EMS responders reported that the boy had no pulse, but was successfully resuscitated before being taken to Vidant Medical Center.

"Medical experts are fearful that he may have suffered irreparable brain damage and may require lifetime care," Taft, Taft & Haigler stated.

Jaekwon's mother, Jasmine Williams, also spoke during Tuesday afternoon's news conference while fighting back tears.

"When I left him, he was playing and talking, and then I'm like... that's not my child that I left them with at the moment for them to take care of," Jasmine Williams said. "When I got [to the hospital], he was already on the machine and they had other doctors and nurses working on him already."

Taft, Taft & Haigler said Jaekwon's mother and her representatives have been trying to get copies of the water park's surveillance video, as well as statements from recreation department officials, pool administration, employees and lifeguards.

"As of [Tuesday], her questions have gone unanswered," said Taft, Taft & Haigler.

Attorney Tom Taft of the law firm explained further.

"We think there were three chaperons in the Rocky Mount group where he lives that went over," Taft said "[But] we don't know how many people were at the pool facility. We don't know how many lifeguards where they sit, what the pool regulations are-- whether they are being followed. It's still a real puzzle as to how this child ended up on the bottom of the pool."

The representatives of Jaekwon's mother have also requested all the records of the Kinston Department of Public Safety's investigation to learn more about the circumstances of the accident, said Taft, Taft & Haigler. The family has received a four-page police report, but it does not go into detail about what led up to the accident.

"Department of Public Safety officials have not provided her with this information, but efforts to obtain it are continuing," the law firm said.

Bill Johnson, the director of the Kinston Department of Public Safety, released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"We continue to pray for the recovery of Jaekwon Williams.  The safety of all water park guests is paramount. We are conducting our own investigation so that we may understand how this tragic accident occurred, including a review of all of our safety policies and procedures.

"We received the document requests from attorneys for the family and the city's attorneys have been working with them to provide the information they are seeking."

Meanwhile, the City of Rocky Mount also released a statement Tuesday:

"The City of Rocky Mount expresses heartfelt concern and hopes for a speedy recovery to the young man who was injured during a recent field trip to the water park in Kinston, N.C. We strive to provide a safe environment for our summer campers, and we aim for transparency in all situations.

"Attorneys representing the child's family have requested detailed information regarding this accident in a letter received by the City of Rocky Mount on Monday, August 18, 2014. The City immediately began compiling the requested information, but we will need time to gather these materials and to consult with Parks and Recreation staff. We are confident in our ability to get this information to the attorneys in a timely manner.

"The accident is still under investigation, and the city will have a detailed statement when that investigation is completed. We will not have any comments until the investigation has been completed."

Jaekwon has two brothers and two sisters; they were also at the water park when the near-drowning happened, their mother said. Those children are doing okay and are being care for by their grandmother in Rocky Mount.

The mother said she did not know which one of her children was hurt until she arrived at the hospital.

Jaekwon is a rising fourth-grader at Baskerville Elementary School in Rocky Mount.

The Woodman Foundation owns Lions Adventure Water Park, which is operated by the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks & Recreation Department. The water park was closed on Aug. 11 and 12, but has since reopened.

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