Mid-Pacific Institute recently agreed to a settlement with the parents of a 5-year-old boy who drowned while on a school field trip two years ago. As part of the agreement, the family of Alaric Chiu will receive $7.2 million, a record amount. The family sued the school for wrongful death back in 2019 and has been working to draw attention to the matter ever since.
When commenting on the settlement, Lucius Chiu, the boy’s father, said:
“Part of the significance of this settlement is that it is the largest publicly disclosed settlements in Hawaii history for the death of a child, and so it tells the public how important it was to bring this case.”
The family’s attorney, Jim Bickerton, said the sizable amount of the settlement “will send a strong message that schools and other educational institutions and businesses must do what’s necessary to ensure children’s safety.”
The school also issued a statement following the settlement announcement:
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Alaric Chiu…There is no greater responsibility or higher priority than the safety of our students, and we reaffirm our commitment to taking all necessary actions,” said Paul Turnbull, Mid-Pacific’s president.”
What happened, though? How did the child drown? Well, according to the suit, Alaric was attending a Mid-Pac spring break day camp and was “kayaking in Kaaawa with a school counselor when the overloaded vessel capsized.” Tragically, the child could not swim, and to make matters worse, the parents were never informed that the children attending the day camp would go in the water. According to the suit and witness reports, there were four people in the kayak when it capsized, and none of them were wearing life jackets. Under federal and state law, “anyone under the age of 13 on a boat or kayak in the ocean are required to have a life vest.”
Since the suit was filed, the Chiu family hired a number of experts who “pushed the school to implement a number of safety measures,” including the following:
- Ensuring workers are qualified for their positions;
- Requiring necessary and up-to-date training for workers;
- Developing and enforcing proper safety policies and procedures for school activities;
- And requiring purposeful evaluations of employees.
So far, the school has implemented many measures similar to those the family demanded. For example, the school has restructured its senior management, hired a new compliance and safety officer, and implemented new off-campus trip protocols for faculty, staff and volunteers.