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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Family Sues Hilton Over Electrocution in Pool

HOUSTON (CN) - Hilton Worldwide negligently allowed a known electrical system problem to become a "pool of death" for a Texas man visiting the hotelier's Houston Westchase property, his family claims in court.

According to a lawsuit filed in Harris County, Texas, Raul Hernandez Martinez succumbed to injuries from electric shock a week after rescuing family members from the pool during Labor Day weekend, 2013.

He, his girlfriend Lorena Mendoza, and her daughter Valeria Sanchez, were staying at the hotel, when they were joined by Raul's mother, Maria Duran, and his younger brother, 10-year-old David Duran, for an afternoon swim, the complaint says.

Tragedy ensued as the sun began to set and the family started to exit the pool, the plaintiffs say.

"At this point, David began swimming toward his mother," the complaint states. "By all accounts, the pool lights had turned on. Nearing his mother in the deep end, David suddenly cried out as his body convulsed and he began to float helplessly near the pool light in the deep end. Mrs. Duran instinctively reached for her child, only to be jolted by the unseen electrical current racing through the pool. Her body likewise began to convulse as the electricity surged through her body - feeling the pain and helpless to do anything to save her 10 year old son.

"By this time," the planitiffs continue, "Raul had entered the water in an urgent race to save his family. Raul reached David first. As Raul screamed in pain, he hoisted David up to Lorena and Valeria. As they reached in to pull David from Raul's grasp, Lorena and Valeria felt coursing 'ants' of electricity being transmitted through them as they hauled David's limp body from the water. As Raul attempted to save his mother, the electricity incapacitated his efforts.

"Hearing the painful screams and the pleas for help, a bystander entered the rescue efforts. As Raul's screams filled the air, Lorena and the bystander pulled Mrs. Duran's body from the pool. All the while, these rescuers were continuing to receive their own jolts of electricity as they came into contact with victims in the water. They next turned their rescue efforts toward Raul's motionless, floating body. After pulling Raul from this pool of death, the bystander immediately began to administer CPR to Mrs. Duran's still and seemingly lifeless body. These heroic efforts revived the mother. As she regained consciousness, she witnessed the horror of the frantic efforts to revive Raul," the account concludes.

Raul's girlfriend, her daughter, his mother and his brother, all survived the incident, and are joined by Carlos Hernandez, Raul's father, as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The complaint accuses the hotel operators and a local electrical repair company, Brown Electric, of "gross negligence of epic proportions." It cites shoddy repairs, a lack of safety features, and a failure to obtain city permits for work on the underwater pool light.

"In the weeks leading up to the Labor Day weekend, Hilton Westchase maintenance personnel were experiencing problems with the pool light and its associated circuit breaker, but did nothing to ensure that there was no danger to those guests entering the pool," the plaintiffs claim.

"Although the breaker kept blowing so much that Hilton called Brown back out for a service call, at no time did the Hilton managers close the pool or take steps to review the safety of the pool and its electrical wiring," they say.

The families claim that after the accident, a city inspector cited the hotel for use of a hazardous electrical system.

The complaint seeks actual and exemplary damages from Hilton Worldwide Inc.; Interstate Hotels & Resorts LLC; Wheelock Street Capital LLC; WS Westchase LLC; Interstate Westchase LP; Westchase Tenant LLC; Interstate Management Co. LLC; and Brown Electric Inc.

The plaintiffs are represented by Stephen Loftin of Hicks Thomas LLP in Houston.

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