Family of 5-year-old who drowned at summer day camp planning to file civil suit

The state forced the camp to close pending a police investigation.

ByABC News
July 25, 2017, 4:53 PM

— -- A lawyer for the family of a 5-year-old boy who reportedly drowned at summer day camp in Georgia last week says they plan to sue "every single person responsible" in his death.

"It's a tragedy. It's a warning to every parent in this country about the dangers of summer camps," said L. Chris Stewart, who is representing the family of 5-year-old Benjamin Kamu Hosch. "There's no doubt that we're filing a civil suit in this case. This was horrific."

On Friday, Benjamin was attending Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mills Nature Center, when, according to an incident report from the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department, he and a group of children and adults walked to a waterfall area to eat lunch.

In a statement to ABC News, the Cochran Mill Nature Center said that after lunch, the group of 13 children "were allowed to splash in a shallow adjacent creek." The center said that four adults were supervising the children at the time.

Dramatic video of a child falling from a bus on the highway

"When the group gathered to leave the creek, the adults realized that one child was missing," the nature center said in its statement.

According to the police report, officers were called to the camp area when Benjamin could not be found and a search was started to find him. The nature center said he was found "a short distance away in a pool of water in an area that had not been visited by the group. CPR was administered and the child was transported by EMS to the hospital."

Stewart said during a Monday news conference that Benjamin was never supposed to go to the waterfalls or go swimming. He also said that it had been important to the Hosches that the camp not provide swimming and not have a pool.

"He [Benjamin] can't swim," Stewart said, adding that the 5-year-old did not have a life jacket.

Stewart said parents received an itinerary every week detailing what the children were going to do. He said parents were told the group was going fishing that day and having a water fight with a fire department. He said there had been no mention of a trip to the waterfalls.

"Now a tragedy has occurred," Stewart said. "This is not an accident. This is gross, insane negligence. And the Hosch family had to pay the price."

"His brother was his best friend. He was his father's shadow and he was my heart."

Benjamin's mother and father, Ayisat Idris Hosch and Benjamin Hosch, both spoke about the 5-year-old during the news conference Monday, saying he left a younger brother behind.

"He changed my life. He was everything. He was the light. We were a four-pack. ... We were always together. His brother was his best friend. He was his father's shadow and he was my heart," Ayisat Idris Hosch said.

Benjamin Hosch said he handled the young child's drop-off and pickup from camp. Benjamin Hosch said when his wife called him, he raced to the hospital where he found Benjamin with a light pulse and medical staff working on him.

"I said, 'Your daddy's here. Come on!'" Benjamin Hosch said.

The Fulton County District Attorney's Office said the case is still a police investigation. City manager Robbie Rokowitz told ABC News that an investigative report would be available after the autopsy report is finalized.

"The case will remain pending and open until we have received everything we need from outside sources, including the autopsy report. The Medical Examiner's Office says the cause of death is pending toxicology and histology and that a death certificate will not be issued until all that lab work is back (up to four to six weeks). Finally, once the certificate is issued it usually takes about two months for the autopsy report to be completed," Rokowitz said.

In a statement to ABC News, Reg Griffin, the chief communications officer at Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, said that it had issued a cease-and-desist order closing the program and was investigating the incident.

"Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mill Park is an unlicensed program that was unknown to the State of Georgia until the reporting of this incident today. ... Georgia law allows for situations where a child care service can be exempt from state licensing requirements based on the ages of children, duration of the program, hours of operation, specific activities, or where services are offered free of charge. It appears that Camp Cricket was neither licensed nor had it applied for and received exempt status from the state. We visited the park yesterday and determined that they are neither licensed or exempt."

Cochran Mill Nature Center's volunteer and board member Steve Hurwitz said in a statement to ABC News that its board, staff and volunteers were "heartbroken and distraught" over the tragedy.

"Cochran Mill Nature Center has hosted summer camps and other outings for children of all ages for 23 years. The camp's focus is on nature and the outdoors. Thousands of children have attended the camps over the years without incident except for minor scrapes, bumps and bruises. In 2016, over 15,000 children visited," Hurwitz said. "Cochran Mill is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help injured wild animals and provide educational tours and camps for children."

Ayisat Idris Hosch said Monday through sobs that what happened to Benjamin should not happen to anyone.

"No one should ever feel as broken as I feel right now, as cheated as I feel right now. No one should ever have to go through this," she said. "They robbed us of his life, of his potential. ... I am broken. I am sad."