A kayaking excursion to Kaaawa Beach during a 2019 spring break kids’ day camp run by Mid-Pacific Institute that resulted in the death of a 5-year-old boy was an unplanned detour from the scheduled itinerary, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the boy’s parents.
A 30-page complaint filed in 1st Circuit Court slams Mid-Pacific Institute and the coordinators of its Extended Learning Program for gross negligence, alleging that the kayaking trip to the Windward beach was not on the agenda that day, giving parents no opportunity to grant permission or even know about the activity ahead of time.
Alaric Chiu drowned when a two-person kayak holding two other kids and the camp’s program supervisor, Maria Davis, was capsized by a large wave about 150 feet from shore, according to the complaint.
Chiu, who did not know how to swim, drowned. Davis, 63, who also died during the incident, is believed to have suffered cardiac arrest, according to the complaint. The two other children in the kayak were able to cling onto the kayak until they were rescued, according to the complaint.
No life jackets were provided to the children by the owners of the kayaking operation, Richard Salgado and Melvianette Salgado, according to the complaint.
“Alaric died because Mid-Pacific and its counselors had no idea what they were doing,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, James Bickerton, said in a statement. “The school showed stupefying incompetence — hiring a team wholly lacking in both training and common sense and giving them no training or standards to follow.”
The lawsuit comes nearly a year after the deaths shook the Mid-Pacific community and put the extent of safety protocols, or lack thereof, during school day camp activities under sharp scrutiny.
Chiu was not a regular student at the school, but enrolled at The Prep at St. Andrews Schools, according to news reports at the time. But he and his older brother, identified as “T.C.” in the complaint, were enrolled in a spring day camp managed by Mid-Pac.
The kayaking excursion came on the fourth day of that week-long camp, a day that was billed as the “Island Tour and Beach Day Excursion,” with a plan to make various stops around Oahu, according to the complaint.
Nine kids participated in that trip, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade.
After stopping at Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa, day camp leaders told the tour bus driver “there was a change of plans” and instructed him to drive to the Salgados’ property where the kayaks were located, according to the complaint.
Here, the kids were taken out, in two groups, on the two-person kayak by camp supervisors while other kids waded in the water and played in the sand.
“The kayaking activity was not a listed activity that was included in defendant MPI’s Island Tour and Beach Day Excursion itinerary,” the suit states. “Defendants intended the kayaking activity to be a surprise for the campers/students.”
According to the complaint, Hawaii law requires the use of life vests for children 12 years and younger in a kayak. Not only were these not provided, no safety protocols nor swim assessments were taken by the kayak operators, according to the suit.
The complaint also criticizes the adult supervisors and Mid-Pac for their actions to alert Alaric’s parents about the events.
The 5-year-old was underwater for at least a half-hour before he was pulled out, according to the complaint. Moreover, it alleges the boy’s mother received “a vague text” from Mid-Pac requesting she contact the director of the program.
“They do not acknowledge or understand the gravity of the problem.” — Lucius Chiu, Alaric’s father
The boy’s father, Lucius Chiu, was overseas at the time and when informed by his wife about the text, had to contact Castle Medical Center directly to learn more. He was told his son had drowned, according to the complaint.
In a statement, Lucius Chiu said he “trusted the school with our son, but instead they killed him.” His statement added that he had discussion with the school before filing the suit, “but it became clear that they do not acknowledge or understand the gravity of the problem.”
The day camp was run by a network of family members: Pua Davis, its director and coordinator, is the daughter of Mid-Pac school chaplain Wendell Davis and Maria Davis, who was its program supervisor.
Pua’s brother, Kae Davis, was the camp’s assistant supervisor.
The Davises were friends of the Salgados, the kayak owners, according to the complaint.
Mid-Pac is a private educational institution in Honolulu serving grades pre-K through 12. It enrolls 1,550 students at a $25,000 yearly tuition.
Julie Funasaki Yuen, director of communications at Mid-Pacific, said, “We are saddened by the loss of Alaric Chiu,” but had no further comment.
Read the complaint here:
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