Sunday, January 23, 2000

Dad holds Navy responsible after son dies

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Aaron Powell
        The father of a 17-year-old West Chester boy who drowned this weekend in Indianapolis says the U.S. Navy owes the family some answers.

        “They broke a trust,” said Richard Powell, whose son, Aaron, drowned in a hotel pool Friday. Aaron left his home Friday with a Navy recruiter so he could be sworn in Saturday.

        “There was nobody at that hotel watching over my kid,” Mr. Powell said.

        A Navy spokesman said that it is not standard practice to supervise the military applicants overnight during the application process. Commander Steve Lowry said Saturday night that Navy personnel had been sent to the Powell home to talk to the family.

        Aaron was dropped off at a Quality Inn hotel about 5:10 p.m. Friday and was swimming in the pool 20 minutes later, said India napolis Homicide Detective Thomas Sarfaty.

        At some point, Aaron stopped swimming to get something to eat and a short time later returned to the pool.

        Witnesses spotted the boy at the bottom of the pool. A hotel guest performed CPR.

        The teen was revived, rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead shortly before 10 p.m., Mr. Powell said.

        An autopsy determined Aaron's lungs had filled with water.

        Mr. Powell, a retired Navy man, said his son graduated high school early to join the Navy.

        “He didn't know what he wanted to do and was fighting the whole growing-up process, but when he took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Tests he did really good and it excited him,” Mr. Powell said.

        “It was a big confidence builder and it really lit him up completely.”

        Detective Sarfaty said hotel personnel said it was common for recruits to be dropped off and picked up the next day to be sworn in. There were about 20 young people at the hotel Friday, the detective said.

        Mr. Powell said his son graduated Jan. 14 from Lakota West High School.

        “We had to sign papers to allow him to enter at 17,” said Mr. Powell, who retired in 1996 after 20 years in the Navy.

        “I gave them my son under the understanding that they were going to play parent until they brought him back or he (was sworn in),” Mr. Powell said.

        The Navy spokesman said he could not comment on what the family had been told.


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