While Saving a Child, 27-Year-Old Man Electrocuted in Hilton Houston Hotel Pool; Family Sues
Carol Christian | Houston Chronicle | October 3, 2013 5:34am
Oct. 03--Relatives of a Harris County man who they say died after being electrocuted in a hotel swimming pool have sued Hilton Worldwide and related businesses.
Maria Isabel Duran, along with other plaintiffs, filed the suit Wednesday in State District Court on behalf of her deceased son, Raul Hernandez Martinez, 27.
The plaintiffs, who are represented by the Hicks Thomas law firm in Houston, seek relief of more than $1 million.
According to the Houston Police Department, the incident happened about 7:40 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Hilton Houston Westchase, 9999 Westheimer Road.
Hernandez was swimming with family members at the hotel pool as the pool lights came on near dusk.
Swimmers began to complain of being shocked, and Hernandez swam to the deep end to help a child, a police news release said.
He got the child out but couldn't get out himself, the release said. When bystanders pulled him from the water, Hernandez went into cardiac arrest and the bystanders gave him CPR, the release said.
He was taken to an area hospital where he died Sept. 6 in intensive care, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The institute has not released the cause of death.
Hernandez and his girlfriend, Lorena Mendoza, and her daughter were spending the Labor Day weekend at the Hilton Westchase, where they planned to gather with other relatives, according to the lawsuit. Duran brought Hernandez's 10-year-old brother to the hotel to swim at the pool.
As the children were finishing their swim, the 10-year-old boy suddenly cried out and his body convulsed as he began to float helplessly near the light in the pool's deep end, the suit states.
Duran reached for him and was jolted by the electrical current and also began to convulse, the suit states.
She spent about four days in the hospital, and her younger son was in a pediatric intensive care unit for almost a week. Mendoza and her daughter were also admitted to a hospital, the suit states.
According to the plaintiffs' petition, the pool at the Hilton Westchase had not met electrical codes for years.
For example, the suit states, there was no "ground fault circuit interrupter" on pool lights to cut off power quickly enough to prevent injury.
Brown Electric, also named as a defendant, installed new electrical equipment and wiring at the pool without getting proper permits from the city, the suit alleges.
A post-accident inspection by the city resulted in a citation for "use of (an) electrical system which constitutes a hazard to safety, health and public welfare," the suit states.
Plaintiffs also allege that faulty wiring resulted in live electricity being sent directly to the pool light's housing.
In response to a request for comment, Hilton Worldwide issued a statement Wednesday through a public relations agency:
"The Hilton Houston Westchase prioritizes guest safety and is cooperating with the proper authorities," the statement said. "As this incident is an ongoing investigation, any inquiries should be directed to the Houston Police Department. We are keeping the Hernandez family in our thoughts during this time."