08/15/06 — District answers parents' lawsuit

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District answers parents' lawsuit

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on August 15, 2006 1:49 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education has filed a response to a lawsuit filed by the parents of a child that died last year during a field trip.

David O. Lewis, a Durham lawyer representing the school system, said the response denied the board's liability in the accident.

Antwan Lewis, a student at Spring Creek High School, drowned at Myrtle Beach, S.C., in April 2005 while the school's band was on a field trip.

His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school board in Wayne County Superior Court in June, accusing the school system of negligence.

A court date has not been set. Both sides are involved in the pre-trial discovery process.

The school board was served with the Lewis' complaint June 14 and had 30 days to respond to those complaints. On July 5, Lewis submitted an extension request to allow another 30 days to prepare a response. He filed the response Monday, shortly before the time limit expired.

Lewis said he also faxed a copy of the response to the Lewis' lawyer, Ed Braswell.

Lewis, a 16-year-old sophomore, was swimming with fellow band mates during a break in a high school band competition when he was carried out to deeper water. His parents, Jonathan and Jimmie Lewis, say the school system failed to properly ensure the safety of the students on the trip.

The lawsuit's complaints include wrongful death claims in both North Carolina and South Carolina, breach of contract and constitutional violations.

The lawsuit claims that the Board of Education should have done more to see that students were properly chaperoned, had a lifeguard present when they entered the water and developed guidelines for the conduct of students and chaperones during the competition.

During the weekend-long competition, the lawsuit claims that many students swam in the hotel's swimming pool and the Atlantic Ocean, but chaperones didn't increase supervision or have any rules or guidelines concerning students going into the water.

The lawsuit claims that on the day Lewis drowned there were no chaperones nearby. Before the accident, the lawsuit alleges, two chaperones were on the beach but left to go to the balcony of a third-floor hotel room.

According to the lawsuit, Lewis' parents are seeking compensation for the pain and suffering of losing their son, reasonable funeral expenses and "the present monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages recovered."