Buffalo Grove family sues campground for son's drowning death
The family of a Buffalo Grove teenager who drowned last July while attending summer camp in Decatur, Mich., filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against the campground.
Jacob Waxberg, 15, a sophomore at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, drowned July 20 while swimming in a lake along with other campers.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County circuit court names numerous parties as defendants, including the Greenwoods Camp For Boys, which has offices in Glencoe and Chicago, Camp Director Dayna Hardin, several individual camp counselors, and the Lake of the Woods operating company and Lake of the Woods Family of Camps, which own several campgrounds in Michigan.
"There was substantial negligence that resulted in the loss of Jacob Waxberg," said Todd Smith, lead attorney representing the Waxberg family with the Chicago firm Power Rogers & Smith. "The camp did not have proper illumination for swimming activities. You are not supposed to be swimming after dark, and it was after dark."
Smith said the drowning occurred well after sunset at 9:17 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
"About 10:10 p.m. was when Jacob was last seen, having entered the water just a few minutes earlier, and then he went under sometime around that point," Smith said. "They shouldn't have been in the water in the first place. We believe it's a violation of regulations that apply here regarding no swimming in darkness."
Smith said the police report indicates there was no lighting in the area where Jacob drowned and the officer who responded to the call used a flashlight to search for him underwater.
"It appears that (camp officials) did put some lighting in the next night when the police officers went back," he added.
Camp Director Dayna Hardin, who according to police reports called 911 at about 10:15 p.m. after Jacob went under, said Monday she could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit as she has not yet seen it.
"This past summer, our camp and campers were deeply saddened by the loss of Jacob," she said. "The family is really in my thoughts and prayers always."
The only allegation Hardin would refute was about the lighting issue.
"The lighting that's there has always been there. Nothing has changed," she said.
Smith said though the complaint states the plaintiffs are seeking more than $50,000 in compensation from the campground, the family wants a jury to decide what would be an appropriate amount.
"The family lost their only son," Smith said. "It's the most substantial loss that a family could ever suffer. It's devastating to the Waxberg family."