Family sues Hilton over man's death


POSTED: Thursday, October 01, 2009

Family members of a 56-year-old disabled athlete who died after his foot got trapped by the suction of a lagoon drain have filed a lawsuit against the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa for failing to take safety measures.

William Stock's son, Jacob, and mother, Margaret, filed the wrongful death lawsuit yesterday against the Hilton for failing to provide warning signs to recreational users about the strong suction of the drain and neglecting to make the lagoon safe.

“;My family and I are very devastated,”; Stock's son said during a news conference yesterday in Honolulu. “;It's a shame that my father passed away in this sense. It's wrong. It shouldn't have happened.”;

About 1:30 p.m. July 30, Stock was swimming in the shallow lagoon when his left foot got sucked into the vertical 8-foot flat drainage grate at the bottom of the lagoon. The grate has 1 1/2 -inch holes and is encased with rocks. A visitor from Texas and two other men pulled Stock from the grate, but it was estimated he was underwater for 10 to 12 minutes.


By the time he was pulled to the surface, “;Stock's face had turned color and his eyes had rolled back,”; according to the suit.

He was taken to the Queen's Medical Center and was taken off life support the next day when it was determined he was brain dead.

The autopsy report is still pending. However, the city medical examiner had determined that Stock's cause of death was a near drowning.

Stock, of Foster Village, was well-respected in Waikiki, said attorney Mark Davis, who is representing the family. In 2000, he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder that led to paralysis from the waist down. Still, he continued to regularly swim unassisted to Flat Island in Kailua Bay and in Waikiki.

During the news conference, Davis said the Hilton failed to comply with the federal 2007 Pool and Spa Safety Act. Operators were required to retrofit flat drainage covers with oval-shaped drainage covers to prevent entrapment, he said.

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Operators had until December to retrofit covers. According to Davis, the lagoon falls under the definition of public pools. Video footage taken by investigators showed a fish and debris stuck against the drainage grate.

“;We consider it quite dangerous,”; Davis said.

A Hilton official told the Star-Bulletin in August that the lagoon was in compliance with city and state regulations.

Stock's relatives also accused the Hilton of failing to reverse the force of the suction or having an emergency switch in close proximity to cut power. Davis said the switch is located a “;ways away”; from the lagoon.

Though the lagoon is on state property, the Hilton is responsible for maintaining the lagoon. Hotel officials declined to be interviewed.

“;We offer our sincere condolences to the Stock family at this difficult time. We cannot comment on pending litigation and have not seen the lawsuit,”; said Jerry Gibson, area vice president and managing director of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, in a statement.

“;I want them to fix it and to fix it now,”; said Jacob Stock, 22. A month ago, he headed to the lagoon and told children playing near the drain to move away from it.

“;This could happen again,”; he said.