December 21, 2014

Elyria
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3-year-old drowns at Kalahari water park

SANDUSKY — Authorities say a 3-year-old Michigan boy who drowned at a northern Ohio water park was found face down in a children’s pool.

Hassan Itani, of Dearborn, was pulled from the outdoor pool at Kalahari Resorts water park in Sandusky and taken Sunday afternoon to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Capt. Paul Sigsworth of the Erie County Sheriff’s office called the death a “tragic accident.” Coroner Brian Baxter said the mother momentarily lost sight of her son, who didn’t know how to swim and was playing with an older brother around the pool, which ranges from 3- to 4-feet deep. Police and park officials say lifeguards were on duty at the time.

Kalahari spokeswoman Carrie Leum said in a statement that park employees were “deeply saddened” by the toddler’s death. She says the park is cooperating with law enforcement.

The state has taken disciplinary action against Kalahari at least five times since the resort opened in 2005.

Inspectors with the Amusement Ride Safety Division told Kalahari management last May the park had fewer lifeguards than expected and “many water rides were operated in a careless and unsafe manner.”

The 173,000-square-foot park features rides such as the Elephant Trunk and the Rippling Rhino.

Erie County sheriff's deputies, Huron fire officials and Kalahari staff stand outside the entrance to the Sands portion of the Kalahari Resort Sunday in Sandusky. (AP photo.)

Erie County sheriff's deputies, Huron fire officials and Kalahari staff stand outside the entrance to the Sands portion of the Kalahari Resort Sunday in Sandusky. (AP photo.)