Saturday, January 12, 2002

Covington settles suit in drowning death

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The mother of a Latonia boy who drowned in a closed municipal swimming pool plans to lobby for safer recreational facilities for Tristate children, after settling her family's lawsuit Friday against Covington officials.

        “We're starting preparation on a Dylan Roberts Foundation,” the boy's mother, Carla Roberts, said Friday. “Anyone can contact me if they see a dangerous situation in a public recreation area....”

        Ms. Roberts, who now lives in Erlanger, made her comments after she and Dylan's father, Michael Cole Sr., accepted an $800,000 offer from Covington officials. As part of the settlement, neither side admitted negligence.

        Covington City Solicitor Jay Fossett said the agreement calls for a portion of the money to be set aside for the education of Dylan's siblings — Natasha, 5, and Skylar, 4.

        “While there was a tragic accident and a small boy lost his life, maybe his siblings can use the money to their advantage,” Mr. Fossett said.

        On Aug. 31, 2000, divers pulled Dylan's body from 7 feet of stagnant water in Rosedale Pool, next to a mobile-home park where the 6-year-old lived with his parents. Police said the Latonia Elementary first-grader and a friend had entered the pool the previous night through a hole in the fence.

        In their lawsuit, Dylan's parents claimed that Covington officials knew the closed municipal pool was dangerous, but failed to fill it in, post warnings about the danger, or take steps to keep children away from it.

        Eric Deters, the attorney for Dylan's parents, recommended against accepting the city's offer, based upon feedback from a 14-member focus group he had convened within the past week.

        “The focus group determined that the city was 100 percent wrong, and they would have awarded damages of at least $2 million,” Mr. Deters said. “But Dylan's mother wanted closure. She didn't want to have to go through a trial.”

        Had the case gone to trial next Wednesday, as scheduled, the city could have paid much more, Mr. Fossett said. Within the past six months, two Kenton County juries had awarded damages of more than $3 million in cases involving the wrongful deaths of children, he said.

        Mr. Fossett said that the city's three focus groups of former Kenton County jurors found that Covington officials and Dylan's babysitters shared responsibility in the boy's death.

        “The settlement is within the range that the groups came back with,” Mr. Fossett said. “We thought that was the best way to get a gauge on how you value the life of a small child.”

        Closed after the March 1997 flooding, Rosedale Pool was never reopened because it was in a flood plain, and city officials were considering building a contemporary water park elsewhere.

        This summer, Covington officials plan to open a new water park at 43rd Street and Decoursey Avenue in Latonia.

        Although pleased about the water park, Ms. Roberts said that she has collected signatures from 3,000 Covington residents who would like to see Rosedale Park fixed up and named for her son.

        “I'd like to see the kids that Dylan used to play with have a park to play in,” Ms. Roberts said. “Maybe now, Dylan will be at rest and we'll get closure.”

        Information on the Dylan Roberts Foundation will be posted on Dylan's Web site,


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