|By Nancy L. Othon, South Florida
Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 14, 2008 - On the day that Giankarlo "J.C." Squicimari drowned, the National Weather Service advisory warned of a "high risk of very dangerous rip currents" that could pull even a strong swimmer into deep waters.
Whether the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach warned or should have warned hotel guests about beach conditions will be at the center of a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the hotel by Squicimari's mother, Olga Giner.
Squicimari, 31, died May 27 in a heroic attempt to save the lives of two girls caught in rip currents that afternoon. After hearing the screams from the girls' mother and seeing no response from nearby employees, he and his friend ran into the ocean, said Giner's attorney, Tom Culmo.
His friend helped save a 12-year-old girl, then nearly drowned before another good Samaritan plucked him from the rough waters. Squicimari reached the girl's 8-year-old sister and held her up so she could breathe, then went under. He was pulled from the water after being submerged about seven minutes, but could not be revived.
In her complaint filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Giner alleges there was a lone sign near the pool that listed the high and low tides as well as the water temperature. The sign explained the colors of warning flags for caution or "no swimming," but no one at the beach that day recalls seeing any flags, Culmo said.
"There were no warnings at all on the beach about this life-threatening condition that they knew existed," Culmo said at a news conference with Giner and Squicimari's fiancee, Sasha Herrera. He said the signage was "completely inadequate."
Four Seasons officials declined to answer questions about the case but issued a statement.
"We understand that a lawsuit has been filed in response to a tragic accident that occurred last May," spokeswoman Kerry Shorr said. "Our sympathy does go out to the family and we'll leave it in the hands of our lawyers to respond appropriately in court."
Since the drowning, Culmo said, he has learned that the Four Seasons receives daily weather advisories. Yet there were no explanations of rip currents or what to do if a swimmer is caught in a rip current posted near the beach, he said.
Signs describing rip currents similar to the ones posted at county beaches nearby have now been posted near the Four Seasons' beach, Culmo said.
When Giner and Herrera first came to Culmo, they initially were concerned about the fact no lifeguards were present, he said. The sign at the Four Seasons does say "No Lifeguard On Duty."
Giner said she wants to ensure that no other families suffer a similar loss. She wants establishments such as the Four Seasons to be required to post signs about current beach conditions.
"I believe that the accident could have been prevented," said Giner, who lives in Kendall with Herrera. "His actions -- I want them to have a meaning."
Every day, Giner said, she wakes up having momentarily forgotten she has lost her only child. Then she remembers.
"Everyday you have to learn how to live that day again, you have to learn how to cope," she said.
Giner and Herrera described Squicimari as a loving, caring man who was "all about helping others" and wouldn't hesitate to risk his own life.
Herrera briefly described the harrowing moments when her fiance ran to help the girls struggling in the water.
"I was very concerned and scared for his life, but I didn't think he was going to die," she said. "I didn't think he wasn't going to come back to me."
Nancy Othon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-228-5502.
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