MISSOURI CITY, Texas -- In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, a Missouri City family alleges “gross negligence of epic proportions” for the swimming pool electrocution death of a young man at a Hilton Hotel swimming pool.
Raul Hernandez Martinez, 27, and his family spent the Labor Day weekend at the Hilton Houston Westchase hotel at 9999 Westheimer in West Houston.
They were at the swimming pool at dusk when the lights came on automatically. Eyewitness accounts, and now a civil lawsuit, detail how an electrical current immediately surged through the water.
David Duran, 11, “suddenly cried out as his body convulsed and he began to float helplessly near the pool light in the deep end,” according to the lawsuit the family filed against Hilton Hotels and the Houston-area electrical contractor Brown Electric Inc., which had performed recent upgrades to the pool’s electrical system.
The boy’s mom Isabel Duran reached for her son and was shocked as well and knocked unconscious. She was revived via CPR and suffered several broken ribs when family members and bystanders dragged her from the pool.
The boy’s brother, Raul Hernandez Martinez then fought through the electrical current to retrieve his little brother and push him to the edge of the pool where others helped pull him out.
The boy would survive but then Raul became motionless as the electrical current continued to surge through the pool.
The lawsuit said Raul was pulled from “this pool of death” where rescuers tried to save him, but he was pronounced dead at a hospital six days later.
"And you never think that your family is going to a pool at the Hilton and potentially they could all lose their lives,” said the victim’s brother Carlos Hernandez. “My whole family could have been gone that day."
"The layers of negligence and inaction are very disturbing in this case and I think as the record unfolds you'll see that,” said attorney John B. Thomas who filed the suit on behalf of the Duran/Hernandez family.
An investigation after the electrocution death found that the pool at the Hilton Westchase “did not meet applicable city, state and national electrical codes” and did not have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) on the pool light system which are normal installations in pool construction to prevent electrical surges.
Brown Electric Inc., had been hired by Hilton to bring the pool into compliance but, according to a city of Houston inspector, had performed work without obtaining the proper permits. After the death Hilton and Brown were cited for “use of electrical system which constitutes a hazard to safety, health and public welfare.”
The lawsuit also alleges that several days before the accident that staff at Hilton Houston Westchase called on Brown Electric to troubleshoot a problem pool light again. The electrician allegedly reconnected wires in a junction box and determined the pool system operational.
When KHOU 11 News first reported the electrocution death last month, Hilton released the following statement. In response to the lawsuit filing the response issued is the same:
“The Hilton Houston Westchase prioritizes guest safety and is cooperating with the proper authorities. As this incident is an ongoing investigation, any inquires should be directed to the Houston Police Department. We are keeping the Hernandez family in our thoughts during this time.”
"I don't want for this to happen to another family,” said Isabel Duran who now keeps a small shrine to her deceased son in a back room at her Missouri City home. “That no one goes through the pain I'm going through."
The civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Hilton and Brown Electric Inc.