Parents sue over child's drowning at country club


The parents of a 5-year-old boy who drowned at the Crofton Country Club filed a $20 million wrongful-death lawsuit yesterday, alleging that the country club and a pool service management company it hired failed to properly train employees and adequately staff the swimming pool.

The complaint, filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, says there was one lifeguard at the pool June 22 when Conner Freed, 5, entered the water and drowned. The suit alleges that the lifeguard was not properly trained and "froze" when an unidentified woman at the pool noticed the boy floating face-down in the water.

On a tape of a 911 call from the incident, the dispatcher asks whether there is a defibrillator available, and the caller, a lifeguard at the pool, says: "We're not allowed to use it. ... None of the staff is allowed to use it." The dispatcher repeatedly asked whether the boy's chest was moving up and down while cardiopulmonary resuscitation was administered. The answer was "No."

Wayne Rohauer, general manager of the country club, said he has met with Thomas Freed and Debra Neagle Webber, the boy's parents, but he declined to discuss the lawsuit. "Based on the ongoing investigation and the sensitively of it, I cannot comment at the point," he said.

A woman who answered the phone at the pool-management company, D.R.D. Pool Service in Hunt Valley, referred calls to its attorney, who could not be reached yesterday.

Anne Arundel County police said Paul Carroll, a friend of the Freed family, took Conner Freed to the pool as part of an outing. The boy was wearing a lifejacket and playing in the pool, but he asked Carroll to remove it so that he could use the bathroom, police said. A short time later, a woman screamed that a child was unresponsive and floating in the pool.

The boy was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

"The family is angry at the fact of the inactions taken by the entire staff of the country club and D.R.D.," said H. Briggs Bedigian, the family's lawyer. "They lost their son. They are angry at everyone."

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