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Hilton Hawaiian Village Sued Over Fatal Drowing
 in its Rebuilt Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon

By Robbie Dingeman, The Honolulu AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

October 1, 2009 - The family of a 56-year old Honolulu man who died after he got caught in the suction of a drain in the newly rebuilt Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon in Waikiki is suing the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Attorney Mark Davis filed suit yesterday in Circuit Court on behalf of the family of Bill Stock, a disabled athlete who got into trouble while swimming at the lagoon on July 30 and died the next day at The Queen's Medical Center.

According to Davis, Stock was swimming at the lagoon when he was trapped by the strong suction and flat underwater drain gate, less than 5 feet below the surface.

Swimmers and surf instructors who attempted to save Stock's life reported that it took three people to pull him free of the drain, Davis said. Stock was a disabled athlete who was a strong and active swimmer as well as an advocate for other disabled athletes, he added.

"We consider it quite dangerous," Davis said, with Stock's 22-year-old son, Jacob, looking on.

Hilton Hawai'i declined to comment specifically on the pending litigation. Jerry Gibson, area vice president and managing director of Hilton Hawaii, said he had not seen the lawsuit yesterday afternoon.

"We offer our sincere condolences to the Stock family at this difficult time," Gibson said.

Jacob Stock said his family is devastated by the loss and went forward with the lawsuit to prevent any further injuries.

"It's wrong; it should have been prevented," Stock said. He recalled his dad as a best friend as well as a father, who frequently swam with him to Flat Island in Kailua Bay.

The senior Stock had relied on a wheelchair since 2000 when he became ill with a viral infection that was diagnosed as transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across the spinal cord that left him permanently disabled, Davis said.

The Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon was created by a combination of excavation and fill along the shoreline in 1956 when the Hilton Hawaiian Village was developed by Henry Kaiser. Under the terms of a 1955 legal agreement, Hilton was given the right to build, use and maintain the lagoon.

The suit alleges that in 2006, Hilton installed an extremely powerful water circulation system which pumped in about 15,000 gallons of water per minute from the ocean, and which completely replaced the lagoon water about five times each day. Previously, the water had been replaced every 1 to 1.5 days.

The suit alleges a violation of federal standards under the Consumer Products Safety Act. In 2007, the Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted by Congress, requiring all public pools and spas to install or to be retrofitted with anti-entrapment devices by Dec. 19, 2008.

Davis said Hilton should have been among the owners who retrofitted their pools and spas to comply with federal law. "We want this fixed," he said.

Davis also said no Hilton Hawaiian Village on-site staff turned off or reversed the suction from the pump.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at


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