Stamford YMCA sued for $35 million in near drowning

By Daniel Tepfer
Friday, July 27, 2018

BRIDGEPORT - The family of a Chinese student who remains in a coma after nearly drowning in the Stamford YMCA pool last year has filed a $35 million federal lawsuit against the organization.

Zhaojie Yang, 22, a student attending the University of Connecticut's Stamford campus from China, went for a swim at the YMCA at 10 Bell Street on Oct. 13. He was pulled from a pool after a friend noticed him unconscious at the bottom.

"As a result of prolonged lack of oxygen to his brain, Zhaojie suffered severe, permanent, and irreversible brain damage," said Zhaojie's attorney, William Bloss of the Bridgeport-based law firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder. "Zhaojie was eventually transferred back to China, where he remains in a coma."

The suit states that two lifeguards were stationed on duty at the time. As his friend began to do laps, Zhaojie slipped under the water. Even though there were only a handful of others in the pool at the time, Zhaojie's distress went unnoticed for an extended period of time, according to the suit.

After being pulled from the pool, Zhaojie was taken to Stamford Hospital and then to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital but remained unconscious.

The lawsuit states that the YMCA not only "failed to properly train its lifeguards" but also "failed to make sure that the lifeguards had no other duties or distractions other than monitoring the patrons using the pool."

When they arrived, first responders were able to return a heartbeat to Zhaojie.

"Sadly, though the emergency medical personnel were able to start Zhaojie's heart pumping, his brain had by all intents and purposes virtually stopped functioning by then. He now has little or no activity outside his brainstem," Bloss said.

"This is an especially horrifying case of a young man's life being shattered and is particularly tragic because it could so easily have been prevented," Bloss said.

The plaintiff in the suit is Ximiao Jiang, a Virginia resident appointed by the Probate Court for the District of Stamford as conservator for Zhaojie. The case was filed in U.S. District Court and has been assigned to Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford.