Hotel Sued Over Whirlpool Death Trap

     MIAMI (CN) – A man drowned in a hot tub at the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort, overpowered by the whirlpool’s extreme suction force, as hotel staff ignored his fiancée’s desperate pleas for help, his family says in Miami-Dade Court.

     John Van Hoy Jr. died tragically on Dec. 28, 2010, while staying at the Sandals resort in Nassau, Bahamas, with his fiancée, Nicole Cleaveland.
     As he was enjoying the hot tub, Hoy dunked his body below the surface “and was ‘sucked’ onto the spa’s suction outlet drain cover/grate and/or sump frame,” according to the complaint.
     “Although he was 33 years old, in excellent shape, and could bench press over 300 pounds, the suction force was so excessive, John Van Hoy Jr. could not free himself,” the complaint states.
     Cleaveland had been relaxing nearby when she noticed Hoy did not come up for air. She screamed for help and then jumped, fully clothed, into the hot tub to rescue him, but was unsuccessful.
     “Nicole Cleaveland then sought the help of a Royal Bahamian employee who ignored her pleas for help and walked away,” according to the complaint.
     Since there was no emergency shut-off switch nearby, Cleaveland says there was nothing she could do.
     “Upon hearing her calls, several heroic guests jumped in the hot tub, but collectively could not pull John Van Hoy Jr. from the bottom suction outlet drain cover/rate and/or sump,” Hoy’s estate claims. “While the rescuers pulled on John Van Hoy Jr.’s limbs and body, one of the guests was able to brace his legs against a wall of the hot tub and back against John Van Hoy Jr, and from this leg-press position was able to roll John Van Hoy Jr. off the drain.”
     In the meantime, no Sandals employees tried to help or to shut off the suction pump, according to the complaint. Since Sandals kept the pump house locked, employees were also barred from trying to turn the pump motor off.
     “Complicating matters, no Sandals employees were either trained or willing to provide CPR for the 45 minutes or more that transpired before an ambulance arrived,” the family claims.
     Hoy was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital.
     “In the final moments of his life, John Van Hoy Jr. experienced unimaginable conscious terror and utter foreboding doom – all of which was exacerbated by John Van Hoy Jr. knowing that his [fiancée’s] efforts to save him had failed,” according to the complaint.
     After Hoy’s death, Sandals’ employees tried to remove the phone from Cleaveland’s room “to prevent contact with friends, family and local assistance,” the family claims. The Jamaica-based hotel chain and its Delaware-based marketing representative, Unique Vacations, then “subjected Nicole Cleaveland to interrogation in which they attempted to suggest that John Van Hoy, Jr., or she were somehow at fault for the death.”
     Hoy’s parents, his son from a first marriage, Cleaveland and Cleaveland’s son sued Sandals Resorts International and Unique, as well the companies that manufactured the hot tub or its parts, including Hayward Industries.
     They seek damages for negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and product liability. The family is represented by Keith Brais with Brais & Associates.
     Last month, Sandals sued Brais, his firm and colleage Richard Rusak for defamation, demanding $180 million. The complaint says Brais or his agents posted malicious and inaccurate accusations about the resort on his firm’s website, Sandals is represented in that action, also filed in Miami, by Reginald Clyne with Clyne & Associates of Coral Gables.

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