Student found in Lake Stevens High School pool dies

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 10, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 10 at 5:40 PM

LAKE STEVENS, Wash.  -- A disabled student pulled unconscious from a swimming pool at Lake Stevens High School at the end of May has died.

An attorney representing the family says Fedrick Nifasha died on Sunday at an Everett hospital after being removed from life support.

From the beginning, the odds were stacked against Nifasha. His family fled their African homeland of Burundi for a refugee camp in Tanzania. His father spent 37 years there. Fedrick spent the first 16 years of his life there as well.

Fedrick had epilepsy and suffered terrible seizures while at the camp. His parents longed to take him to America where he could have surgery to help his condition. That dream came true in 2009, but life would take a tragic twist for the family.

“It's a horrible thing that no one should ever have to go through,” said Sim Osborn, the family’s attorney.

The Nifashas moved to Lake Stevens. Soon thereafter, Fedrick had brain surgery that the family says stopped his epileptic seizures.

At 20 years old, Fedrick didn’t speak English. According to a district spokesperson, he was enrolled in a special needs program in the Lake Stevens School District that teaches life skills.

The activities included swimming at the high school. Swimming, however, was one activity his parents reportedly told school administrators he was not supposed to do.

“There was a letter in his file when he started school that he can’t swim,” said Osborn. “He shouldn't have been at a pool. His parents didn't sign a permission slip for him to go.”

Fedrick was found at the bottom of the Lake Steven High School pool on May 31.   He slipped into a coma and was taken off life support Sunday night.

The district maintains the student was only under the water a short time, pulled out by an alert lifeguard after a head count. Osborn says doctors believe otherwise.

“We know through at least one of his doctors that he was in the water for a significant period of time. I don't know how long. I don't think anyone really knows how long.”

There is also conflicting information as to whether the incident happened at the beginning of the swim session, as the district contends, or at the end.

“We have information from people who were there that it was at the end of the session,” said Osborn, indicating Fedrick may have been under water and unnoticed far longer than the district acknowledges.

School spokeswoman Jayme Taylor said the district is conducting its own investigation, adding, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Fedrick’s family. We are deeply saddened by this loss and thank the community members who have lent their support to Fedrick’s family and our students and staff members during this extremely difficult time.”

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