• Parents accuse community group of negligence after 5 kids nearly drown at Discovery Park

    By: Deedee Sun

    Updated:

    Two boys are in the hospital Sunday night after nearly drowning at Discovery Park Friday.

    Parents are accusing the camp of negligence and refusing to accept responsibility.

    Five children were rescued while on a summer camp trip with East African Community Services.

    A Burien mom whose daughter was on the trip is speaking out.

    Deeqo Sahal said her 11-year-old daughter saw her friends struggling in the water and now has nightmares and was too scared to take a planned trip to a water park Sunday.

    Eleven-year-old Asha Sahal was part of the day camp organized by EACS Friday where organizers brought more than 100 kids to Discovery Park.

    “We were all having fun in the water, with about 116 kids in our camp,” Asha said.

    Her mom tells KIRO7 she had no idea her child would be getting in the water. She said she signed a consent waiver that said the kids would be hiking and “might get wet,” but she did not know the children would be swimming.

    “There (were) no life jackets on any of the kids. They didn't ask any of us parents if our kids even knew how to swim,” Sahal said. Asha does not know how to swim.

    Asha said she and her friends were playing in the shallow water. She saw a crab – “I’m kind of scared of crabs,” she said – so she got out of the water.

    Then she turned around and saw her friends.

    “I saw the big tide pools take them away,” she said. “You could hear some of them screaming help.”

    Asha said she tried to tell an adult at the camp.

    “I said they’re drowning can you help? And she said, ‘Oh they’re just playing,’” Asha said.

    That's when two British tourists jumped into action. (https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/seattle-crews-responding-for-possible-water-rescue-near-discovery-park/789415493)

    They rescued two kids and others pulled out three more. All five – four boys and one girl - were rushed to the hospital.

    Swimming is not allowed at Discovery Park. It's a Seattle Parks and Recreation rule that people can only swim where a life guard is on duty.

    Asha and her mom visited Asha’s friends at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

    “Just to see them in that position, it really hurt,” Asha said. “They really didn’t deserve that.”

    “If didn’t see that crab, then I probably would’ve been in the water too. So it just hurts thinking about stuff like that,” Asha said.

    Her mom said the camp did not reach out to the parents to tell them about the incident.

    Instead, she found out about it after a co-worker saw the incident on the news and messaged her to ask if her daughter was OK.

    “I was just in total shock,” Sahal said. “I was terrified, I was fearful.”

    Sahal said she first heard from the camp two hours after the Seattle Fire Department got the first calls for the rescue. The message said:

    5:16 p.m.

    "Hi parents, Everybody is okay. We are on our way back to EACS. We should be there before 6pm.

    5:49 p.m.

    "There is a lot of traffic hopefully we will be there by 6:15pm.”

    “I was really furious. There was no accountability,” Sahal said.

    Sahal said EACS has asked parents not to speak with media, but she felt the need to speak out.

    “We just want transparency. This is a big mistake. To me this is - it's negligence,” Sahal said.

    “It shouldn’t have happened and they’re shutting everybody down. That’s the first thing that came to my suspicion, is what are they hiding? That’s why I took it on myself to bring it out,” she said.

    EACS board chairman Hadis Ali said parents have met with organization officials.

    “I can't speak to the parents. All the parents who were involved in the field trips and the organization, they were invited. And it was a very productive meeting and I'm not at liberty to share what was discussed,” Ali said.

    EACS also said it is investigating what happened and will release a report once that's complete.

    Ali told KIRO7 that EACS’ primary focus now is supporting the families.

    EACS posted this statement on Facebook:

    “A terrible incident transpired Friday on our summer field trip to Discovery Park. Some of our beloved students were overwhelmed in the water and nearly drowned. Thanks to both bystander support and also the interventions of EACS staff and parents, all of the kids were rescued. Five were taken to the hospital, three have been released and two remain in the hospital, we hope that they all make a full recovery. Our primary focus right now is on supporting the children and their families — the children who nearly drowned and the children and families who witnessed and are witnessing this trauma. EACS is in touch with all of the families of our students to schedule a special community counseling session.

    "We ask the public, including the media, to respect the privacy of the families and give our community space to heal. Please do not post images of any of the children without their parents’ consent. We are incredibly grateful to God, our East African community and the community at large. Thank you to the British tourists, the person on the boat, and our staff and family members who all pulled students out of the water. As a community we will heal and move forward to strengthen our water safety practices to better safeguard against such potentially lethal accidents in the future.

    -From EACS Executive Board”

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