MANSLAUGHTER TRIAL SET FOR POOL BUILDER
By Rebecca Robledo of Pool & Spa News
Via Poolandspa.com Online Newsletter
Las Vegas, NV USA
A pool builder accused of causing a 6-year-old boy’s
death is set to stand trial Oct. 5.
In July 2007, Zachary Archer Cohn was entrapped and
drowned at his Greenwich, Conn., home after his arm became stuck in
a drain. The single suction outlet was located about 3 feet from the
top of a spa dam wall.
A year later, David Lionetti, owner of Stamford,
Conn.-based Shoreline Pools, was arrested and charged with
second-degree manslaughter. Authorities alleged that he purposely
flouted state building codes requiring a safety vacuum release
system on the pool. Lionetti pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he
faces up to 10 years in prison.
Lionetti’s attorney announced last month that the
pool builder has decided to go before a judge rather than a jury.
"The issue is very emotional. It’s such a horrible tragedy,” said
Richard Meehan, senior partner with the Bridgeport, Conn., firm
Meehan Meehan & Gavin. “In a court trial rather than a jury trial,
our hope is that emotion won’t cloud the issue.”
In 2004, Connecticut adopted the International Code
Council’s model codes stipulating that SVRS’s should be required on
all pools. But Meehan said the state didn’t notify builders quickly
“The change in the code was put into effect Sept. 1,
2004, but it’s unclear when it was published,” Meehan said. “There’s
some suggestion it wasn’t published until the end of 2005.”
The Cohns’ pool was permitted in June 2005. The pool
was built according to the state code immediately prior, Meehan
said, and it did not require dual drains or SVRS’s.
“There was not a lot of information available to
people alerting them to what the code changes were,” Meehan said.
“For example, building inspectors were unaware of it. This pool had
been inspected three times, and then ultimately a certificate of
occupancy had been provided for this pool by the Greenwich Building
Department. ... When the building inspector doesn’t know about it,
how does a pool company necessarily know about it?”
Meehan also plans to raise a whole other question in
the hearings. “The bigger issue, which I think is really critical
for [the pool] industry, is that Shoreline Pools employed over 300
people,” he said. “Why is the president of this company being called
to task? It’s not him who necessarily designed the pool and did all
the work on the pool.”
Zachary Cohn’s parents also filed suit against
Shoreline Pools and eight other parties. But the civil trial will
not take place until after the criminal proceedings. In the suit,
Brian and Karen Cohn claimed that Shoreline knew the drain cover was
Meehan said that isn’t true. “Shoreline had sent
somebody out to replace the cover when it came off, but they were
never informed that it had come off a second time,” he said.
“Apparently it had come off the day the little boy died. But
Shoreline wasn’t called — nobody informed Shoreline of that.”
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