Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Austintown, Ohio: Nathan Kinderdine, 7, drowns in pool at school

Nathan Kinderdine, age 7

Nathan Kinderdine, who had autism, has spent the past six weeks taking part in a summer enrichment program at the Leonard Kirtz School in Austintown.

It took less than five minutes for the Boardman 7-year-old known as a "runner" to wander away from his teachers and classmates and end up at the bottom of the school's indoor pool Tuesday.

While workers tried to revive him, Nathan later was pronounced dead at St. Elizabeth's Health Center. Now, police are trying to determine how he got into the pool and if a problem with one of its self-closing doors was the reason Nathan was able to enter that area.

"We're not rushing into it," said Austintown detective Sgt. Raynor Holmes. "We're trying to find the victim's whereabouts, and try and retrace where he went and where everything went from there. It's not the easiest thing to do, but that's what we have to look at."

A timeline in the police report shows that the doors to the pool area were locked just before noon. The last adult left the pool about ten minutes later.

About 12:35 p.m., two instructors took a group of six children into the nearby gym. One instructor first took in three kids, including Nathan because "he is a runner." The instructors then momentarily went into the hall to get three more children and, that's when they noticed Nathan was missing.

After a quick search, by 12:40 p.m. a custodian had unlocked the pool doors and found Nathan floating face down in about three and a half feet of water. The custodian jumped in to get him, and the boy was taken to the school's clinic, where nurses performed CPR.

After the incident, an officer fully opened a door leading from the boys' restroom into the pool 10 times. The door is supposed to lock from the outside whenever it closes. That door closed and locked, like it's supposed to, only once.

Officials with Leonard Kirtz are doing everything they can to find out what happened as well.

"We're waiting on the coroner, and Austintown Police Department report to see what they believe was the cause and the time frame involved," said Superintendent Larry Duck. "From there we'll try to look at what needs to be done to prevent this from ever happening again."

Linda Finlay's son, 13-year-old Joshua Finlay, attended the same program as Nathan. While the Salem resident attends West Branch Middle School, autistic children are required to participate in summer programs, Finlay said.

Finlay said she knew something was wrong when Joshua came home with a letter from the school Wednesday that stated the week would continue as scheduled, but there was an incident that involved a student in the swimming pool.

"It's really bad," Finlay said. "I was up all night crying. I feel really bad for the parents."

She said Joshua understood what happened at his school Tuesday. His reaction surprised her, she added.

"He was really shocked," Finlay said. "He said, 'this is a really tragic thing that happened'."

Finlay said she gave her son a choice on whether to attend school Wednesday. He decided to go, she said, but left after lunch.