Suit filed over boy’s drowning

LIHUE — The drowning of a 3-year-old Hanapepe boy nearly two years ago is the subject of a lawsuit.

Oahu attorney Michael Green filed a wrongful death and negligence suit on Oct. 2 in 5th Circuit Court. It alleges that an open gate and lack of prevention led to the death of Kapa Kaniela Moke, Jr., and that the homeowner is responsible for the property and the conduct or negligence of the management.

The plaintiff is Kapa Moke, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Kapa K. Moke Jr. He is suing Frank and Nora Joan Ritchey as trustees of the Ritchey family community property trust.

The incident occurred on Nov. 30, 2012, when Erika Punahele Duarte-Perreira, 23, of Hanapepe, and her son Kapa Jr., were visiting Stuart Souza, the property manager. When Kapa Jr. asked his mother for a drink, she directed him to ask Mr. Souza and she continued to gather things from the car and assumed the boy was going into the house, according to the suit.

Unbeknownst to Duarte-Perreira, the side gate to the backyard was open, the suit states. A few minutes later, Duarte-Perreira heard someone yet, “Help! Call 911” and saw Souza running from the backyard carrying Moke Jr. He had just pulled the boy from the swimming pool.

The two attempted to resuscitate Moke Jr. until responders from Kauai Fire Department arrived. The boy was pronounced dead at 1:44 p.m.

The suit charges negligence for having a gate which provided access to the swimming pool left open by an agent or employee of the trust. Latching the gate would have prevented the boy from entering the backyard unattended.

Negligence was also alleged for not having additional safety equipment or protective devices around the pool that may have prevented a small child from falling into the pool. The death of a child by drowning in a swimming pool is a reasonably foreseeable threat as swimming pools have long been deemed an “attractive nuisance” and a detriment to the health and well-being of children, according to the suit.

No hearings have been scheduled.

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