of Yoni’s Tragic Death by Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club - Part
No parent could ever fathom that leaving
their child at a day camp would be the last time they would
see their child alive. Yet that is precisely what happened
here. On August 15, 2005, Yoni Gottesman’s mother took him
to a summer camp at Cathedral
Oaks Athletic Club (COAC) in Santa Barbara, California.
The Camp included swimming in the Club’s pool. Ironically,
the Club’s advertising at the time focused on what a safe
facility it was. The events of that day showed that, on the
contrary, both management and staff were all but oblivious
to the safety of the children in their care.
The Swim Lesson and Test:
In the morning, one of the swim instructors
at the Club, GABRIELA Kasimatis, gave Yoni a swimming lesson.
She concluded that Yoni was “overconfident in his swimming
abilities,” and that he needed to hold on to the side of the
pool. This critical point for Yoni’s safety during any future
time in the pool, however, was not conveyed to the Camp counselors
or lifeguards who would be watching the pool while the Campers
swam later that afternoon.
At the beginning of the Camp’s afternoon
swim time, one of the Camp counselors, JEANETTE (JENNIE) DARLING, gave
Yoni a swimming test to determine his ability level and, as
a result, restricted him to the shallow end of the pool. The
counselors and lifeguards did nothing to enforce that restriction,
however. On the contrary, the male counselor in the pool,
Sam Shipley, actively enticed and encouraged Yoni to swim
to the deeper parts of the pool.
The Camp Counselor’s Aggressive “Dunking” of Yoni:
Both swim instructor Kasimatis and Camp
counselor Darling knew that Yoni could not be allowed out
of the shallow end of the pool. Despite that, counselor Shipley
took little Yoni out into the deeper parts of the pool and
aggressively “dunked” him under water – not once, but a number
of times. Counselor Shipley then swam away from an exhausted
and disoriented Yoni, who struggled to stay afloat and then
began to float face down in the water. He stayed that way
for more than eight (8) minutes. As Yoni was dying, this same
counselor swam within only a couple of feet of the drowning
little boy, paying no attention to his condition.
JEANETTE (JENNIE) DARLING, the counselor who gave Yoni
the swim test and restricted him to the shallow end of the
pool after the test, did nothing to monitor him. She also
did nothing to stop the dunking by counselor Shipley – which
not only violated the Club’s rules, but also was obviously
a safety hazard to young children.
The Lifeguards’ Complete Failure to Monitor the Swimmers:
In addition to the outrageous dunkings,
one of the most appalling facets of Yoni’s tragic death is
the conduct of the COAC's lifeguards, Michael Bowen and David
Merin. Far from following the well established protocol of
lifeguard safety procedures [View
Gerald Dworkin Material], the lifeguards at the
pool were oblivious to the little boy floating and dying directly
in front of them. Rather than scanning the pool as required,
the lifeguards instead repeatedly turned their attention away
from the pool for extensive periods to adjust their jacket
or umbrella, or to leave the pool area entirely to get a soda.
Even when the lifeguards otherwise appeared to be watching
the pool, they took no notice of little Yoni floating face
down as close as a few feet in front of them.
For more information on Gerald Dworkin and lifeguard
safety procedures, please click