The family of a 24-year-old New Jersey man who drowned in Jackson Cove this past summer plans to sue Oxford.
The town has been put on notice of a potential lawsuit from the family of Vingesh Viswenathan of Edison, N.J., who drowned on the night of Aug. 11 at the Oxford park.
The family plans to bring a lawsuit against the town and its agents and employees for “their negligent acts and/or admissions leading to the cause of death.” The notice of claim, filed at Town Hall, names (by positions held) the acting director of Parks and Rec., the acting chair of the Parks and Rec. Commission, the acting maintenance superintendent for Oxford and lifeguards on duty on Aug. 11.
Oxford officials say there were no lifeguards on duty at the time of the incident and that signs at the park stated such. Therefore, they say, Viswnathan, who did not pay for admission into the park and did not enter through the public entrance, was swimming at his own risk.
The notice of claim, filed by Attorney Alan Barry of Danbury on behalf of the family, states that the town and its employees “acted with negligence in the construction, operating, maintenance and management of the town’s beach are at Jackson Cove Park, leading directly to the death of Vignesh Viswanthan on Aug. 11, 2012.”
It further states that the town and/or its employees may be liable for:
- failing to disclose in signage or verbal warning the sudden depth of water and strength of current within the beach swimming area, including a deep trench along the swimming dock, although these dangers were known by lifeguards and town deparment of park and recreation
- failure of lifeguards to supervise the swimming area, taking care to watch and observe the status of swimmers, specifically Vignesh Viswanthan
- failing to respond to Vignesh Viswanthan once in emergent situation, so as to timely intervene and save him from drowning
Viswenathan was with a group of about 25 to 30 people of Indian descent who were hiking at Kettletown State Park in nearby Southbury before they decided to go swimming at Jackson Cove around 6 p.m. Viswenathan went missing, and his body was found by divers hours later near a dock at the park, which is about 30 yards from shore.
In response to the notice of claim, Oxford First Selectman George Temple said he’s obviously sorry that the drowning situation happened, but pointed out that it happened when the lifeguard was off-duty and that Viswenathan was a trespasser.
“I don’t want to seem callous; I really felt bad about this situation,” he said. “I was up there that night. But I really think that we’re responsible for our own actions.”
He said the notice of claim has been turned over to the town’s insurance company, which will make a decision about whether to fight the claim.
“I can tell you, having practiced law for 35 years, that our insurance company will probably fight this pretty vigorously,” he said.
Barry, the attorney for Viswenathan, said his firm is still investigating and is seeking witnesses to the incident.