Police: No criminal charges for teen's drowning death in SRVHS pool

Detectives deem death accidental, find no criminal negligence

Danville police confirmed Thursday that no criminal charges will be filed in connection with death of San Ramon Valley High freshman Benjamin Curry, who drowned in the school's pool nearly two months ago.

Detectives found no signs of foul play nor criminal negligence with regard to the 15-year-old's death, determining the boy's death was accidental, according to Lt. Doug Muse. After “extensive review" of the case, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office will not be filing criminal charges, Muse said.

Detectives have determined that Curry drowned while participating in his fourth period physical education class, confirming findings from the county coroner's office.

The coroner's autopsy report, which was released publicly by the boy’s family nearly a month ago, concluded that the drowning -- which occurred at the SRVHS pool -- was an accident and not self-inflicted as some initial reports suggested.

“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," Danville police Officer Kyle Rhoton recounted in the coroner's report.

Curry's body was found by students at approximately 1:40 p.m. May 8, and they alerted school staff who after pulling Curry out of the water and attempted CPR, according to the coroner's report. The boy was then transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police have confirmed that Curry did know how to swim, but they were unsure of how to answer when asked about his skill level.

“The coroner’s report is only one part of the investigation,” said Danville Police Chief Allan Shields, who explained that the DA's Office gave an extensive review before electing not to file any sort of charges.

Muse added that investigators reviewed video footage from the pool area as well as “numerous interviews with family, classmates and SRVHS staff.”

San Ramon Valley Unified School District officials have vowed to conduct their own internal review in order to determine if safer regulations can be put in place to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

“This has been a tragic loss for the student's family and friends, as well as the entire community. From the beginning, we have asked our staff, students and parents to not engage in speculation or the spreading of rumors and to give Danville Police time to complete their investigation,” SRVUSD spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich said Thursday.

“Now that the police investigation has been completed, we intend to commence our own internal review. We will be examining our policies and procedures in an ongoing effort to try to ensure the safety of our students,” Graswich added.

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15 people like this
Posted by Just the facts
a resident of San Ramon
on Jul 5, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Like any public pool when there are swimmers in the water, there should be a certified lifeguard on deck who's only job is the safety of the swimmers. Swim coaches and PE teachers are not lifeguards. Lifeguards can do water extractions for neck injuries that can occur in shallow water diving, first responder CPR, use of AED. They are also trained on observation of potential hazards such as extended breath holding techniques which can be dangerous, dry drownings and a host of other issues. Lifeguards go through extensive training and certification. They practice emergency drills with the local fire and police departments. They work in partnership with the PE and coaching staff. The school district should implement this simple and cost effective solution. They will claim it's too expensive and that the PE teachers are certified. But you can't be on lifeguard and PE duty at the same time. Check out the protocols at the san ramon Olympic pool and the Dougherty valley pool where the city operates the programs and lifeguard services while the school operates PE and swim team and dive team practices and meets. There are always lifeguards on duty whenever there are swimmers in the water. It makes sense. The school district should implement the same.

5 people like this
Posted by Erick
a resident of San Ramon
on Jul 6, 2018 at 7:24 am

While the writer makes valid recommendations, the opening sentence is misleading concerning "like any public pool." My homeowners' association pool,is classified as a "public pool," but has no lifeguard requirement. In fact, it's posted "No lifeguard on duty."Adult supervision is required, but otherwise swimmers use it at their own risk.

5 people like this
Posted by Mrsz2
a resident of Danville
on Jul 6, 2018 at 9:45 am

I hope the school does do an extensive internal review and isn’t just giving lip service to this tragedy. When we send our children to school, our expectation is that those in charge will keep them safe. This was a needless tragedy that could of/should have been prevented. Many people commenting don’t want to speak in public about this tragedy. Many residents of Danville want to sweep unpleasantness under the rug. But how can things change for the better if our heads are buried in the sand?

10 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on Jul 6, 2018 at 10:01 am

@ just the facts...
Or just eliminate ‘Swim’ class. It was a joke when I was a student and probably still is. Try dodge ball or basketball if it’s too hot outside.

10 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:21 pm

Such a tragedy. However, there is still no understanding of how he accidentally drowned in the water. And why wasn't a simple count done with the class before and after the kids got in and out of the water? I agree that if there is a swim class as part of the curriculum in any grade at the SRVUSD, there MUST be a lifeguard on duty at all times, as well as a teacher present, who is trained with CPR, First Aid, etc.

Also, my daughter who attended MVHS and had 9th grade PE, said not all PE classes have "Swim" as part of their 9th grade PE curriculum. I am a strong believer that all people should know how to swim, but on another note, I agree with her that 9th grade is difficult enough without having to change into a swimsuit in front of your classmates (many feel awkward enough in their regular clothes, let alone a swimsuit), so having "Swim" as part of 9th grade PE is questionable anyway for this alone.

My condolences to the family. I hope they have more answers than are being presented in the media.

6 people like this
Posted by so sad!
a resident of Danville
on Jul 11, 2018 at 11:19 pm

This is such a sad and awful story. Glad there is no criminal “foul play”, but to say there was no negligence is ridiculous. PE classes have way too many students, one PE teacher cannot watch over and control all of them. Having children in the enclosed pool area without a teacher is crazy. Having a teacher walk out of the gated pool area without making sure the pool was empty and that there were no items left on bleachers is negligence. I’m sorry, but this was preventable, we must learn from this and never allow it to happen again!

15 people like this
Posted by Lincoln
a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:09 am

Lincoln is a registered user.

The silence from the school district about the circumstances of the drowning death of Ben Curry in the SRV High School pool has been deafening. As a result, the students and parents in the district are left with only scraps of information, rumors, and misinformation. The parents and the students have a right to know what happened and to get an assurance from the district that the same thing won't happen to another student in the future.

I'll briefly summarize what did happen. Ben's drowning happened during the final 30 seconds of a physical education swim class. The students had been swimming and doing exercises throughout the class. Toward the end, the PE teacher had the students tread water for three minutes. My own child was in that class, is a good swimmer, and said that his legs were aching by that point. As a punishment for a few students horsing around, the teacher made the class tread water for an additional 30 seconds. During that time, Ben slipped under the water. The class ended. The students cleared out of the pool area. The teacher left the pool area. Ben remained in the water, at the bottom of the pool. Because of the timing, Ben's drowning was entirely preventable if the teacher had simply looked down into the pool, or walked around the pool looking into it, to make sure no one was left behind. Or the teacher could have taken roll at the end of class, as he did at the beginning.

The school district has said that it will be conducting its own investigation, now that the Danville Police Department has finished its investigation and issued a report. But, the district already knows the basic facts. It could give some preliminary assurances to its constituency that it will do whatever it takes to ensure that its students will be safe in its pools. Instead, it has chosen to remain largely silent -- about the circumstances, about the role of the teacher in this preventable tragedy, and about what steps it will take to prevent future drownings. This approach is a colossal public relations mistake and it does not serve either the school district or the public well.

4 people like this
Posted by Mrsz2
a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:58 am

I agree wholeheartedly with Lincoln. Finally the truth has come out. It looks like the school is doing its typical CYA on this tragedy. As I said previously, 3 of my children graduated from SRVHS. The things they told me about the goings on at that school would make your hair curl. What happened to Ben Curry was a horrible tragedy. First the bullying, which I’m sure the school turned a blind eye to. Then the rumors of his suicide. Then the negligence of his PE teacher. While it will not bring their son back, I hope the Curry’s sue everyone involved into bankruptcy. Maybe that will bring around the needed changes at that school.

2 people like this
Posted by So sad!
a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 4:56 pm

I have heard the same story Lincoln has told above multiple times. In addition, I have been told that Ben got up early before school for basketball practice. It sounds crazy that an additional 30-second punishment could lead to such a devastating tragedy, but it did.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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