Contra Costa County coroner's officials have ruled the drowning death of freshman Benjamin Curry in the San Ramon Valley High School pool on May 8 was accidental, according to a copy of the coroner's report obtained by DanvilleSanRamon.com.
The autopsy report from the Coroner’s Office concludes that the teen’s death -- which appeared to occur between physical education swim classes -- was an accident, and not self-inflicted as some had speculated, and the report also revealed for the first time that at least part of the circumstances were captured by school security cameras.
“Although the decedent suffered from depression, there is no indication the decedent intended to drown himself,” according to the report, signed May 31. “Based on the investigation there is no evidence of foul play, and no indication that the decedent intended to harm himself.”
Danville Police Chief Allan Shields said his department has not concluded its investigation and a coroner’s report “is one piece of a large investigation.” More information from the police is expected in the coming days.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the student’s family and loved ones, as well as our students and staff,” said Elizabeth Graswich, spokesperson for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
"Our message from the beginning to our staff, students and parents has been to not engage in the spreading of rumors and to give Danville Police time to complete their investigation," Graswich said, adding:
"We were asked by Danville Police to defer our internal review until the criminal investigation was concluded so that we did not interfere with their investigation. We have complied with that request. Once police complete their investigation, we intend to commence our own internal review. As part of that process, we will be examining our policies and procedures in an ongoing effort to try to ensure the safety of our students."
After her son's death, his mother told investigators that her son had been struggling with depression and suicidal ideations. Rumors then spread indicating that Curry, who had a recorded history of anxiety and depression, had intentionally drowned himself, but the county's autopsy report disputes those claims.
On the day of the death, San Ramon Valley High security cameras documented Curry attending his regularly scheduled fourth-period PE swimming class, from 11:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Danville police Officer Kyle Rhoton watched the tapes and said he saw Curry enter the pool at the beginning of class, according to the autopsy report.
"As Class ended, students were seen swimming to the edge of the pool and leaving the pool area. Based on camera angles, it was unclear if the decedent left the pool with the other students or if he remained in the pool. Video surveillance captured no further activity in the pool area until approximately 1:40 p.m., when fifth-period swim class arrived at the pool area," Rhoton recounted in the report.
Curry's body was found by students at approximately 1:40 p.m., and they alerted their PE teacher who after pulling Curry out of the water attempted CPR, according to the report.
The coroner's report did not specify Curry's level of skill at swimming.
Toxicology reports indicate that was found to have “therapeutic levels” of antidepressants in his system-- Curry had a prescription-- and trace amounts of THC-- the primary chemical in marijuana-- but the report does not indicate that these played a part in his death.
“The Currys are deeply grieving the loss of their one and only child they had together. They loved him beyond words. They will miss watching him play basketball -- most recently for his AAU Team Payton and for San Ramon Valley High, his joyful presence and sense of humor. Ben was everything to them and this loss has left a gaping hole. He was their light,” Heidi Johnson, Community Presbyterian Church associate pastor of care ministries, said on behalf of the Curry family before his memorial service.