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Lack of rescue equipment cited in Pheasant Run Resort pool drowning
By Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/22/2009 12:05 AM

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The mother of a man who drowned in a swimming pool at Pheasant Run Resort and Spa in 2007 sued the resort Monday, charging that a lack of required safety and rescue equipment contributed to his death.

Javier Gonzales, 21, of Garden Prairie, drowned Dec. 28, 2007, while swimming in the St. Charles's resort's indoor-outdoor pool.

The suit names Pheasant Run Resort and Spa; Pheasant Run Operating; Oakbrook Hotels and Resorts LLC; McArdle Ltd.; Pheasant Run Inc.; and Pheasant Run II.

It was filed in Kane County circuit court.

A request for comment for McArdle Ltd. and Oakbrook Companies general counsel Joyce McArdle, who was to be served with the suit, has not been returned.

The 46-year-old resort started as a restaurant built by Edward McArdle.

According to the suit filed by Ilba Barraza, Gonzales was playing in the pool with his two sisters, ages 15 and 13, a 13-year-old stepbrother and the brother's 12-year-old friend.

As they were splashing and tossing a foam ball around, Gonzales began to have trouble swimming, called out for help, then became submerged in an 11-foot-deep section in the outdoor portion of the pool, according to the suit. He resurfaced, called again for help, then sank face down to the bottom of the pool.

There was no lifeguard on duty, the suit alleges.

His companions screamed for help and looked for a life hook or a ring buoy with which to rescue Gonzales. There were none, nor was there a telephone with emergency numbers nearby. (State law requires one within 300 feet).

His sisters ran up to their parents' room to summon help, while the boys stayed by the pool and tried to find help, the suit said.

The mother and her husband, neither of whom could swim, came down, and the husband waded in to the pool to try to help, asking again for a hook.

A maintenance worker also looked, unsuccessfully, for a hook, the suit stated.

After about 5 minutes, an unidentified Pheasant Run worker entered the pool and pulled Gonzales out.

Gonzales was pronounced dead at Delnor Hospital in Geneva.

At the time, St. Charles police said there was no indication of any mechanical failure that could have caused the death. An autopsy found no signs of trauma or drug or alcohol use.

The suit alleges Pheasant Run had been cited by the DuPage County Health Department the previous three years for not having ring buoys and life hooks at the pool, and for five years for not having a flotation rope marking the beginning of the deep portion of the pool. If there had been a rope, Gonzales may have been able to grab on to it and save himself, according to the suit. State law requires "conspicuous display" of life hooks and ring buoys.

In lieu of the rescue equipment, Pheasant Run should have had a certified lifeguard on duty, as called for by state law, according to the suit.

It also alleges that Pheasant Run failed to report the drowning to health department authorities in a timely manner. State law requires notification to the Illinois Department of Health within 24 hours of an incident of drowning or injury at a pool.

The resort has three pools: one in its atrium, one in an outside courtyard and the indoor-outdoor pool. The water in the indoor-outdoor pool is heated, so swimmers can use both parts all year long by swimming under a glass wall.