HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) – Washington County is being sued over allegations that it did not properly or adequately warn swimmers at a popular lake of potentially dangerous conditions, and the trial that was to start on Tuesday has now been delayed.
The lawsuit was originally filed in May 2016 by the family of Gabriela Garcia Ixtacua, Michael Xavier Garcia, Jova Ixatacua Castano and Jeremy Taylor Scholl.
All four drowned August 25, 2014 while swimming at Henry Hagg Lake near Gaston.
According to the lawsuit, the location where the family went swimming, Sain Creek Picnic Area, “contained a hidden danger” because there is a “deep trench in the wading area with a sudden drop-off which was not visible to waders nor known to decedents.”
It is believed that one of the children, who was in the shallow area, stepped or floated into the trench and “disappeared” and that the other family members attempted a rescue and got caught in the trench themselves, resulting in the drowning of all four.
According to the lawsuit, Washington County should have known that the area where the family drowned was potentially unsafe because prior to 2014 at least 7 people drowned in the “general location” as the family of 4; 8 people had to be rescued in 2012 and people petitioned Washington County before the drowning to post official warning signs.
In court documents, lawyers for Washington County argue “any and all damages” relating to the death of the family in the case “were caused by the failure of the adult decedents, Gabriela Garcia Ixtacua, 25, and Jova Ixatacua Castano, 42, in failing to take reasonable care…” by “failing to recognize and avoid the uneven depths that are expected in an open water area like a reservoir or lake.” The lawyers also claim the adults failed to require Scholl, 3, and Garcia, 13, to wear life jackets and that no one in the group took “notice of a large kiosk with free life jackets on it when entering the parking lot.”
Lawyers for the family filing the lawsuit also claim that the county was negligent by not providing throw rings to save swimmers who become endangered by the drop off.
The county’s lawyers also state that the Bureau of Reclamation, not the county, is the owner of the land in this case.
“Washington County may not designate a swimming area without the permission of the Bureau of Reclamation,” according to the lawsuit.
Court documents filed in the lawsuit show there have been records of drownings occurring at the lake dating back to 1980.
The trial in the $4 million dollar wrongful death civil lawsuit was scheduled to start Tuesday with an order that there be no further continuances. However, court records show that instead of heading to trial there was a last minute motions hearing.
Wm. Keith Dozier, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff, said in an email, “there was an adverse evidentiary ruling and the case needs to be appealed before getting to trial.”
Specific details were not immediately available.