The family of a 5-year-old boy who drowned during a school field trip expressed hope Monday that its $7.2 million settlement with Mid-Pacific Institute will help promote the need to enforce safety measures for children.
Alaric Chiu drowned when a two-person kayak carrying two other children and the camp’s program supervisor capsized in a large wave about 150 feet from shore, according to the complaint. Chui didn’t know how to swim, and the children weren’t given life jackets, it said.
The settlement was reached after 15 months of litigation and with a jury trial set for later this year.
“It was difficult to add the stress of litigation to our unbearable loss, but we are glad that we did it, not just for Alaric but for everyone’s children,” Alaric’s mother, Kana Inubushi, said in a press release. “We needed justice for our little boy, and helping to prevent this from happening to anyone else gives Alaric a measure of justice.”
Alaric was participating in a spring break program with the school, but his parents said the March 28 kayaking excursion to the Windward beach had not been on the itinerary so parents were not asked for permission and had no advance notice about the plans.
The camp’s program supervisor, Maria Davis, 63, also died during the incident. The two other children in the kayak were rescued.
One of the lead attorneys on the case, Robert Miyashita of the Bickerton Law Group, said the lawsuit and attention to the case already had prompted improvements by Mid-Pacific Institute.
“The Chius are also hopeful that the settlement will bring attention to the law requiring children under the age of 13 to wear a life vest or some other portable flotation device on any watercraft,” the press release said.
Mid-Pacific Institute, a private institution in Honolulu serving preschool through 12th grade, said it was committed to taking “all necessary actions” to maintain the safety of students.
The school said it already has restructured the senior leadership team, added a new compliance and safety officer, and implemented enhanced protocols for water-based health and safety as well as off-campus trips, among other measures.
“This tragedy was truly heartbreaking. We are hopeful this settlement and additional school safety protocols will help all in our community as they process these events, and move forward together,” the school’s president Paul Turnbull said.
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