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Slip and fall incidents plague Deep Eddy Pool after renovation

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 by Michael Kanin

A local woman has notified the City of Austin that she intends to file suit over what she describes as negligence in the Parks and Recreation Department’s maintenance of the popular Deep Eddy Pool. Sherry Cordry, who had surgery following a slip and fall accident at the pool on Aug. 1, told In Fact Daily that Parks officials knew about the problem of slippery decks and shallow end of the pool after a renovation earlier this year.


“I (am) really angry that the pool management and lifeguards knew how bad it was,” Cordry said.


Documents obtained by In Fact Daily via public information request seem to indicate that Parks officials knew that there was a problem nearly two months before Cordry’s fall. In an email from Thomas Lucas, a project manager for Chasco Contractors – the firm that was in charge of a major pool renovation that was completed this spring – noted that he and Parks officials discussed the issue as far back as June 6, 2012.


The email also reveals that officials and contractors were familiar enough with the trouble to give it an acronym: SDI, for Slippery Deck Issue. Lucas initially suggested that, in the opinion of one of the project subcontractors, “the lack of real cleaning … is causing the well water to make the pool decks slick,” and that “pressure washing will solve the (SDI).”


Parks officials elected to proceed with Lucas’ suggestion, and pressure washed the deck on July 25 – a week before Cordry’s accident. Discussions between Lucas and parks officials extended into September, when the city officials agreed to acid wash the deck surface and sections of the pool’s shallow end in another attempt to fix the problem. That process was completed in early October.


Three days before contractors power-washed the pool deck, parks officials and City Attorney Karen Kennard received a letter from attorney Thomas Turner. In it, Turner, who wrote on the letterhead of his firm, Cain & Skarnulis, told Kennard, Parks and Recreation Director Sara Hensley, and Parks’ Aquatics Division head Tom Nelson, about his own slip and fall.


“This past Saturday morning, I was exiting the Pool at beach end (in the last 2-3 inches of water) while holding my daughter … when I slipped and fell,” Turner wrote. “The fall jarred (her)…loose from my arms and she too fell, landing on her back and hitting her head.”


Fortunately, neither Turner nor his daughter were seriously injured. However, Turner’s letter reveals what could well be evidence of negligence on the city’s part. “I probably would have chalked this incident up to clumsiness of not for what the attending lifeguard told me as we were completing the incident report,” Turner continued in his letter.


“Specifically, the young lifeguard told me that ‘they know that spot is too slick,’ that ‘a bunch of people have fell in that area this summer,’ and that they have had to call EMS to the pool several times this summer because of people falling in the same area. I have no idea if these statements are correct, but the possibility of their accuracy is enough to cause me to write this letter.”


As it turns out, the statements were correct, according to numerous of incident reports obtained via public information request. The problem evidently became serious enough that officials directed pool employees to keep a spreadsheet log of slip and fall incidents. In Fact Daily has also obtained copies of these reports.


Turner’s letter and the reports are not Cordry’s only corroboration. In a letter she sent to the City Attorney Kennard and the Parks department, Cordry noted that, after she was admitted to the Westlake Medical Center’s emergency room, “(T)he admitting doctor … told me that she had fallen at the same spot … and that her daughter had just three days ago fallen at the same spot as well, hitting her head.”


In a Sept. 30 email to Hensley – also copied to members of the Austin City Council Dan Crow, an attorney, summed up what may be trouble for the city. “The contractor and his entourage and the city people that signed off on the Deep Eddy surface made a mistake, but it was a mistake of a single incident. They are responsible for the consequence of that mistake but that is another matter,” Crow wrote. Crow does not represent any of those who have been injured as a result of falling at the pool.


“As you well know, people are continuing to slip and fall on that deck when it is wet,” he continued. “PARD is knowingly allowing one after another patron to suffer painful debilitating injuries.”


In Fact Daily requested comment from Hensley but did not hear back from her. For his part, aquatics chief Nelson told In Fact Daily via email that the situation had been remedied as of early October. Nelson added that parks officials were not aware of the issue until June – “when the attendance at the pool increased” – and that he is unaware of any pending legal action. 


Turner told In Fact Daily that the recent fixes at Deep Eddy have left him satisfied. Cordry remains, as she said, “pissed.”


“If this was my house I wouldn’t have let this go on,” she said.

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