Family suing Balch Springs after daughter drowns in park's pond

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by JENNY DOREN

WFAA

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 19 at 4:22 PM

DALLAS -- A Dallas County family is suing the city of Balch Springs after their daughter drowned in a newly-constructed pond.

It's a tragedy they say could have been prevented if "no swimming" signs were up.

The signs surrounded the retention pond at Walter E. Luedke Park the day after 10-year-old Tamia Johnson's death. She died on May 18.

"You never think of danger when you're taking your kids to the park," Antoin Lockett said.

Lockett said he let Tamia join her friends at the park while he parked his car. He said he had no idea a retention pond was behind the park -- a hill of dirt was blocking it from his view. In a matter of minutes, he said Tamia followed a trail to the pond and went in, thinking it was safe for swimming.

"There was actual grown people in the water once I ran up," he said.

Lockett said the park, which opened in April, opened too soon. City leaders disagree.

"It's not there for swimming purposes," said Balch Spring spokesman David Haas. "It's there for aesthetic purposes."

Tamia's family says that's not good enough. In their opinion, the pond is plagued with problems.

"This didn't have to happen," said attorney Greg Ave, who is fighting on the family's behalf. They're filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

"They haven't learned," Lockett said. "Even with my daughter gone, they think because they put some signs up that that's going to save the kids at the park."

The city's public information officer isn't commenting on the lawsuit, but he did say the pond, which is at most eight feet deep, isn't dangerous.

"Absolutely not," Haas said. "We have ponds in several of our parks. Other cities have ponds in their parks."

Haas said he's deeply saddened a young life was taken, but hopes a larger lesson can be learned from this tragedy.

"Watch your child," he said. "The pond is there. It is an attraction, but it's there for a purpose."

E-mail jdoren@wfaa.com

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