KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A West Knoxville hotel where a toddler died last weekend after drowning is being sued in Knox County over the 2017 drowning death of another child.
Seven-year-old Darshawn Witt Jr. was staying with family in July 2017 at the Quality Inn & Suites Waterpark on Cedar Bluff Road when he died.
The child, with no adult supervision or lifeguard on duty, accessed the hotel's popular indoor water-themed playground and nearby swimming pool and drowned, the Knox County Circuit Court lawsuit says. There's nothing to separate the two areas, according to the lawsuit.
At least three children have died since 2015 after going unattended into the hotel pool.
Raymond Whitlock, 3, is the latest child to die. He was found under the water on Saturday in the 7-foot section, and he died the next day at an area hospital, according to the Knoxville Police Department.
Among those who tried to help the boy was a woman, Tullie White, who was at the pool for her little sister's birthday party.
In 2015, a 4-year-old Georgia boy also died after going in the pool.
Records identify Riddhi Enterprises Corp. as the hotel owner. Marshawn's parents are listed as Sabrina Chandler and Darshawn Witt Sr.
An administrator on behalf of Darshawn's estate filed suit against Riddhi and listed owner Amit Patel in July 2018. It seeks unspecified punitive damages.
According to the complaint, at the time of his 2017 death, "one or more children had gained access to the water-themed playground and swimming pool without supervision of an adult of on-duty lifeguard and suffered injury prior to July 16, 2017, which was known or reasonably should have been known by defendants."
The lawsuit alleges the hotel was negligent in failing to post a lifeguard at the pool and in failing to restrict in any way access by children to the children's play area and the nearby swimming pool.
Pool signs warn users that no lifeguard is on duty and that they are swimming at their own risk.
Darshawn shouldn't have been able to have such easy access to the play area and pool, the lawsuit alleges.
Witness tried to help 3-year-old
White told 10News on Tuesday she was sitting in a hot tub at the hotel when she saw what she thought was a parent yelling at a child.
“Then, the next thing I know, this other gentleman and himself had pulled the little boy out of the water. His lips were blue, he wasn't moving,” said White.
White is a trained lifeguard so she jumped up to help.
"I started CPR and compressions and things like that,” White said.
Police said Raymond was with three other kids, all family members all under the age of 7. Authorities said the relative who was caring for them was not at the pool.
White said she did what she could until paramedics arrived. White has rescued people before but not faced a situation like this.
"We've had tons of practice but I haven't ever done it on, like, an unconscious person…so it was a little shocking, I would say.”
She says the pool was packed that day, and she can see how one of many children can go momentarily unnoticed.
"Most of the time kids don’t scream, they don't yell, they just kind of go under. So I think in the chaos of all the other kids that were there, it was just difficult,” said White.
White said she would like to see the hotel post signs that state three people have drowned in the pool.
"You know, at a lot of hotels you see, like, ‘Swim at your own risk’ or things like that," she said. "But the fact that this has happened here so many times -- I think they at least need to acknowledge that."