School District Faces Legal Action After Swimmer Becomes Sick From Chlorine Leak

The parent is concerned that the gas leak may result in long-term health effects for his son.

A parent has filed a claim against the Santa Monica School District due to lasting medical concerns following an August gas leak.

Santa Monica High School shut down its indoor pool for a few days after a chlorine gas leak on Aug. 22. However, it has since reopened, and parent Thomas Schumann is threatening to sue the district after he says his son was the most seriously injured.

"I feel at this point the incident hasn't properly been investigated," Schumann said.

Schumann said his 17-year-old son Francis, an athlete at Santa Monica High School, suffered lung injuries after the chlorine gas leak, which sent 11 water polo players to the hospital.

Schumann's lawyer, Khail Parris, said the coach called parents to take their children to the emergency room.

"They didn't call any paramedics as they have students outside who are literally choking," Parris said.

Schumann said Francis was struggling for breath and was barely able to walk.

"He kept walking toward the car in a discombobulated state," Schumann said. "He couldn't really talk."

All of the students involved were treated and released from the hospital, but Schumann said follow-up tests show Francis has diminished lung capacity and possible damage to his vocal chords. He said they do not know if there will be long term effects, so he has filed a government claim against the school district, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.

"Him and the kids are fortunate to be alive," Schumann said. "This is a very grave incident. It affected my son's health and could have killed him."

School district representatives met with parents and explained an investigation determined the gas leak occurred during construction at the school. While restarting a boiler after a broken gas line, chlorine gas was expelled into the pool, making students sick.

"We will be installing a new device on the pool system that will prevent this from happening again," the school said in a letter to parents. "We will also change the operations and maintenance protocols to not service the pool while people are present and alter process to keep this from happening again." 

District officials said the district regrets this incident and they are working with parents to pay for medical claims. However, Schumann said he doesn't just want the emergency room visit covered, as any potential long-term damage may result in more expenses in the future.

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