$35 Million Lawsuit Filed Against YMCA Stamford Over Near Drowning Of UConn Student

By Ruth Bruno
Friday, July 27, 2018

The lawsuit claims that the Stamford YMCA did not properly train the two lifeguards, and did not have proper guidelines in place to ensure that swimmers are in view of lifeguards at all times. (AP)

A $35 million lawsuit filed Wednesday against a YMCA branch in Stamford alleges that the organization's negligence caused a former UConn student to nearly drown and suffer significant brain damage while swimming in a pool at the facility last year.

Zhaojie Yang, 22, has been in a coma for nearly 10 months since the October accident, according to a news release from Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, the Bridgeport-based law firm bringing the lawsuit. The Stamford YMCA did not return a request for comment Wednesday night.

Zhaojie had come from China to study at UConn's graduate program, according to the law firm. He has since been transferred to a hospital in China after being treated at Stamford Hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Zhaojie went to the YMCA pool on Oct. 13, 2017, with a friend, according to the lawsuit. As the friend began swimming laps, Zhaojie slipped under water, remaining submerged for at least three minutes, said William Bloss, the attorney representing Zhaojie He could have been submerged for as long five minutes, according to estimates by medical professionals who have reviewed the extent of the damage to the victim's brain, Bloss said.

The lifeguards were out of their designated positions when the near drowning happened, Bloss said. Both stood on the shallow end of the pool while the swimmer was under water in the deep end, he said.

"This is a tragedy that should not have happened," Bloss said Wednesday night. "A person is not supposed to drown in a life-guarded pool."

The lawsuit claims that the Stamford YMCA did not properly train the two lifeguards, and did not have proper guidelines in place to ensure that swimmers are in view of lifeguards at all times.

According to Bloss, the pool area has wall constructed of stained glass, and the glare from the glass could have obstructed the view of the lifeguards because Zhaojie was directly underneath the glass wall when he slipped under the water.

"This should never happen so long as the procedures are properly followed and the lifeguards have the best interests of the people they are paid to protect," Bloss said.

No security cameras were in the pool area, the lawsuit said.

Ximiao Jiang, a Virginia resident, has been appointed as a plaintiff for the case and a conservator for Zhaojie.