Drown­ing vic­tim’s fam­ily sues coun­try club, city of Newark

Cecil Whig - - REGIONAL - By KARIE SIM­MONS

Special from the Newark Post

— The fam­ily of a 4-year-old girl who drowned last year af­ter fall­ing into an ir­ri­ga­tion pond at the Newark Coun­try Club is su­ing the coun­try club and the city, claim­ing both en­ti­ties failed to pro­tect the child from harm.

The law­suit, filed in Delaware Su­pe­rior Court last month, stems from an in­ci­dent that oc­curred on June 13, 2015, when 4-year-old Mariah Ne­veah Selby was at a pri­vate party out­side the Ge­orge Wilson Cen­ter with her fa­ther. The cityrun com­mu­nity cen­ter is of­ten rented out to cit­i­zens.

At some point, the young girl wan­dered away from the group and onto the ad­ja­cent coun­try club prop­erty, where she slipped into the pond. Some­one called 911 and when first re­spon­ders ar­rived, at­ten­dees of the party were al­ready in the pond search­ing for Mariah.

Within two-and-a-half min­utes, a fire­fighter and a Newark Po­lice of­fi­cer

NEWARK, DEL

Mariah Ne­vaeh Selby, 4, drowned in an ir­ri­ga­tion pond on June 13, 2015.

pulled her from the wa­ter and per­formed CPR along with New Cas­tle County Paramedics. She was then rushed to Chris­tiana Hos­pi­tal, where she later died.

Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Mariah’s mother, Tane­sha Wil­liams, and fa­ther, La­mar Selby, are su­ing the coun­try club and city for an un­spec­i­fied amount to cover Mariah’s hos­pi­tal bills and fu­neral ex­penses in ad­di­tion to dam­ages from their emo­tional dis­tress,

in­clud­ing “anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and a sense of loss.”

The law­suit states that Selby di­rectly wit­nessed the in­jury to Mariah, which caused him to suf­fer “se­vere emo­tional shock, trauma and psy­cho­log­i­cal in­jury with phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions.” As a re­sult, the law­suit states, Selby has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing “sleep­less­ness, anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and other symp­toms, and will con­tinue to suf­fer in the fu­ture.”

Mariah’s par­ents are also claim­ing neg­li­gence be­cause the coun­try club and city failed to post ad­di­tional warn­ing signs and im­prove the sur­round­ing fence fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in 2001, when a young child drowned in the very same pond.

On Jan. 20, 2001, an 8-year-old boy climbed a fence and was walk­ing on the frozen pond with his 11-year-old sis­ter and 13-year-old cousin when he fell through the ice. The sis­ter ran home to alert her mother, and coun­try club per­son­nel called 911.

The boy was trapped for 45 min­utes be­fore fire­fight­ers plucked him from the icy wa­ter. He ini­tially sur­vived but died a year later from his in­juries.

The boy’s fam­ily sued the coun­try club, but the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the club was not li­able be­cause the child’s be­hav­ior was his par­ents’ re­spon­si­bil­ity and the pond was not an “at­trac­tive nui­sance.”

Mariah’s par­ents claim that in their daugh­ter’s case, the city and coun­try club knew of the dan­ger cre­ated by the pond and failed to take rea­son­able mea­sures to pro­vide a safe walk­way. Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, they are also claim­ing the city and coun­try club failed to prop­erly se­cure the pond, main­tain the path and fence, and post warn­ings that a pond was on the premises.

Near the pond there is a pad­locked gate – adorned with a “No Tres­pass­ing” sign – that sep­a­rates the coun­try club from the com­mu­nity cen­ter prop­erty, and a chain-link fence ob­scured by brush and weeds runs along the length of the prop­erty line, behind the Ge­orge Wilson Cen­ter’s base­ball di­a­mond and ten­nis courts.

Mariah likely en­tered the prop­erty through a gap where it ap­pears the fence was bro­ken. Just a thin, rusty metal bar and a few weeds spanned the gap, mak­ing it easy to en­ter the coun­try club prop­erty.

A day af­ter Mariah’s death, Laura DelPer­cio, gen­eral man­ager of Newark Coun­try Club, said she was not aware of the gap in the fence and could not con­firm how long it had been there. Asked if the club was plan­ning any im­prove­ments to the fence, she said she would wait un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­plete and “go from there.”

More than a year later, the gap in the fence is still there and there are no vis­i­ble im­prove­ments to the area other than a short, tem­po­rary wooden fence the city erected last sum­mer. The fence, which ap­pears to have been re­pur­posed from some­where else, blocks off the tree-lined path that leads to the bro­ken coun­try club fence. The area between the fences has be­come over­grown with weeds.

At the time it was in­stalled, a city spokesman ac­knowl­edged that the tem­po­rary fence wouldn’t keep a de­ter­mined child or adult off the coun­try club prop­erty but said it serves as a “clear de­lin­eation” that the area is off-lim­its.

The city and the coun­try club both de­clined to comment Wed­nes­day.

NEWARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

The Rev. John Ni­chols, Mariah Selby’s great-great un­cle, speaks at a vigil for the 4-year-old, who drowned in a Newark Coun­try Club re­ten­tion pond in June.

FAM­ILY PHOTO

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