Tell Parents of Kids Dead in Apartment Pools How to Get Good Lawyers

Try to imagine the ravaged heart of Patricia Allen, whose three children drowned last month in an Irving apartment pool so murky that emergency crews couldn’t tell how many kids were even in the pool.

These were not toddlers. Treshawn Smith was 9. His brother Anthony was 11. They lingered on life support and died weeks later. Their sister August was 10. She was dead when they pulled her from the water.

And, yes, these were black kids, and, no, they could not swim, nor could their mother. Seventy percent of black kids and 60 percent of Hispanic kids cannot swim, according to

Black kids aged 11-12 die in swimming pools at 10 times the rate for white kids the same age, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Why? Because they can’t swim. Why? Because they are poor, don’t get swimming lessons and their parents can’t swim. USASwimming says when parents can’t swim there is only a 13 percent chance their kids will learn to swim.

But if you take a look at the web page for the apartment complex where the Smith children died, that big gleaming swimming pool is the main attraction. MacArthur Place at 183 offers apartments starting at $525 a month for one bedroom, one bath. At those prices, the complex is ideally suited to attract low-income working class families, many of whom will be minority in Dallas.

We all know where this architecture comes from. Apartment complexes all over this area are designed for and marketed to employed singles and couples, when the complexes are new. At that point in the life-cycle, the pool is not simply an amenity: it’s a necessity.

But how long do most of these places hold their luster? To be sure, Lincoln Properties and some few other companies have aggressively updated and rebuilt apartment complexes – the “Village” area around Northwest Highway and Central Expressway is an example – allowing them to hold on to the young professional demo.

But most of these places have a half-life of about 10 years. After that, the young professionals take a long hike somewhere else, and poor to modest-income families with kids come in behind them. That’s when these damned swimming pools start killing kids.

I am counting down – one, two , three – waiting for someone to ask “Where was the mother?” She was right there, watching two other children, ages 3 and 6. She couldn’t swim. She could do nothing. But, fine, if your heart really yearns to heap salt on her wounds and blame her for the lives of her three children, do it. Blame her.

So what? The fact remains that if that damned swimming pool had been either life-guarded or, even better, drained, covered and barricaded, those three kids would be alive today. Why is that so hard to do? The cost and inconvenience of draining the pool is greater than the value of the lives of three children?

If these joints are going to rent to poor minority families, they need to either staff those swimming pools when kids are in them or shut the pools down. And by the way, it would be nice if they could at least treat the water while children are swimming in it.

The city of Irving has cited this swimming pool repeatedly over a period of years for safety violations. That did a hell of a lot of good, didn’t it?

I can think of only one recourse that might force apartment owners to think twice about their responsibility for the lives of the children who live in their properties. Please, please, someone – churches, social clubs, officeholders, anybody in a position to do it – teach people how to Google “wrongful death lawyer.”

There are lawyers out there who can even be Googled under “pool death lawyer.” Only a series of absolutely butt-kicking verdicts – bad enough to snatch the assets right out from under the owners’ noses – is capable of effecting real change here.

And by the way, the jury pool in this area ought to be pretty familiar with the basic circumstances.  Hey, this is what lawyers are for. Half a dozen good lawyers and some big fat awards will achieve a hell of a lot more social justice here and save more lives of children through prevention than six dozen more code violation tickets from the city.

Google. Wrongful. Death. Lawyer. Do something about it.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze