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POOL BUILDER CHARGED IN ENTRAPMENT DEATH
Online Newsletter August, 2008
By Rebecca Robledo,
Pool & Spa News
For the first time in industry history, a builder has been arrested
and faces criminal charges for causing an entrapment death. David
Lionetti, president of Shoreline Pools in Stamford, Conn., was
charged with second-degree man-slaughter in the 2007 death of
Zachary Cohn, the 6-year-old son of a prominent hedge-fund manager.
“David Lionetti is shocked to be personally charged with
manslaughter,” said his attorney, Richard Meehan Jr. of the
Bridgeport, Conn., law firm Meehan Meehan & Gavin. “He’s the
president of a company that employs well over 300 people and has
built thousands of pools.”
Lionetti, 53, was immediately released on $25,000 bail. He was
scheduled to appear in court July 28 and faces a maximum penalty of
10 years in prison. He will plead not guilty, according to his
attorney. Zachary died July 28, 2007, at his Greenwich, Conn., home
when his arm became trapped in a wall drain leading from the pool to
a water feature pump. The incident received national coverage and
helped prompt the U.S. Congress to pass the first-ever federal Pool
& Spa Safety Act.
“Nothing will bring our son back, but we hope this prosecution will
help prevent another horrific incident like this from happening to
someone else,” parents Brian and Karen Cohn said in a statement.
“Those who knowingly violate pool safety codes designed to protect
children should be held accountable for their actions.”
The Cohns’ pool allegedly was not equipped with dual drains or SVRS
devices, making it out of compliance with Connecticut building code
requirements. The prosecutor, State Attorney David Cohen, charged
that in constructing the vessel, Shoreline Pools went beyond
negligence into the category of recklessness. “The difference
between criminal negligence and manslaughter in the second degree …
is what we call the specific intent of the actor,” he stated.
“Reckless conduct basically involves perceiving a known risk and
ignoring that known risk.”
But Meehan said the “risk” should have been seen by many. The Cohns’
pool was designed by an outside engineer and approved by the
Greenwich building inspector, he said. Meehan added that the
installation met several inspections throughout construction and
received a Certificate of Occupancy, indicating it was suitable for
use. “[At] no step along the way did any of those individuals, who
are now defendants in [a] civil case, indicate that there was
anything out of keeping with regulations,” he said. In an odd
turn of events, three days before the arrest, a warehouse at
Lionetti’s company burned to the ground. The cause for the
late-night fire, which destroyed the building, its contents and
dozens of trucks, has not been determined.
“Shoreline Pools is still operational,” Meehan said. “There’s been
no interruption in their installation or service work. It’s just an
unfortunate piece of serendipity that occurred within 72 hours of
the arrest warrant being served.” The Stamford fire marshal would
not comment, saying the incident was still under investigation.
Shoreline Pools was founded by the Lionetti family in 1968.