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Mother of high school swim team member found dead under pool cover sues for $70M

NBC News logo NBC News 10/12/2021 Minyvonne Burke

The mother of an Oregon high school swim team member who drowned after becoming trapped underneath a pool cover following practice is suing for $70 million.

Nabila Maazouz, 14, had just finished an evening practice with the swim team at Liberty High School in Hillsboro on Nov. 20, 2019. Coaches instructed the team to cover the large outdoor pool with the heavy ThermGard pool covers that were rolled up on a storage rack, according to a lawsuit the teen's mother, Patricia Maazouz, filed last Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit states that team members rolled the covers off the rack and onto the water where several swimmers, including Nabila, grabbed a cover and swam with it toward the opposite end of the pool. The swimmers in the water then swam underneath the cover and grabbed the second one.

Again, Nabila and her teammates swam with the second cover toward the opposite end of the pool. According to the lawsuit, they swam underneath the cover to grab the third one but Nabila never resurfaced.

"The other swimmers continued to cover the pool, without noticing Nabila Maazouz's disappearance," the lawsuit reads. "Once the pool was completely covered, the swimmers and coaches left the outdoor pool and the lights were turned off."

Patricia Maazouz was waiting in a parking lot for her daughter but the teen never came out. About 9:20 p.m., less than an hour after the team was allegedly instructed to cover the pool, the mother went inside and asked the swim coaches where her daughter was.

Nabila, a freshman at Oregon Episcopal School, was found dead underneath the covers in the deep end of the pool, according to the lawsuit.

The mother is suing the city of Hillsboro, the school district, and the city's Parks and Recreation Department for wrongful death and negligence. She says the pool covers were "unreasonably dangerous" because they did not allow the team to cover the pool without getting in the water and the covers created a "dark and disorientating underwater environment" for the swimmers.

Patricia Maazouz blamed the district for not realizing her daughter did not resurface and for failing to keep a roster of the swimmers who entered and exited the pool.

The school district declined to comment on the pending litigation and said Nabila's death is a "tragedy that we are all still grieving."

"Our hearts and thoughts continue to go out to her family and all who knew her," spokesperson Beth Graser said Tuesday in a statement.

The city said it has referred the lawsuit to its attorneys for the next steps in the legal process.

"Our hearts remain with the Maazouz family and everyone in our community who has been devastated by the tragic death of Nabila," spokesperson Patrick Preston said in a statement. "The City of Hillsboro is committed to caring for the safety and well-being of all community members at all City facilities. Because this is pending litigation, we will not be issuing additional comments."

The Parks and Recreation Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Following Nabila's death, it changed some of its rules and said only staff members will be allowed to cover and uncover the pool and a lifeguard will be on duty for any practices, according to The Associated Press.

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