Knoxville hotel where 3 kids died denies accusations of negligence

Published: Feb. 20, 2019 at 5:40 PM EST
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The Quality Inn where three toddlers died denies accusations of negligence outlined in a 2017 lawsuit.

In the most recent incident on Feb. 16, 2019, the Knoxville Police Department responded to the Quality Inn located at 317 N. Cedar Bluff Road at about 5:53 p.m. for reports of a


A preliminary report from KPD said a three-year-old boy, later identified as Raymond Whitlock, Jr., had been left unattended at the inn's indoor swimming pool along with his six-year-old brother, a five-year-old cousin and a five-year-old friend.

The children had been in the care of a relative. KPD said the child was found and pulled from the pool by other patrons. When officials arrived on the scene, CPR was being performed on the child. He was transported to Parkwest Medical Center, then Children's Hospital, but ultimately did not survive.

Whitlock is the third child to die at the pool in four years. In March 2015, a

and, in

, a seven-year-old boy drowned. In 2016, emergency crews responded to

of another child, but the child was okay.

The family of the seven-year-old boy, identified as Darshawn Witt Jr., is named in a lawsuit against Quality Inn and its owners. The suit, which names Sherri Annette Farmer as the administrator and representative of Darshawn Witt Jr., was filed in 2018 against Quality Inn & Suites Waterpark, Amit A. Patel and Riddhi Enterprises Corp.

According to the lawsuit, Witt was staying with family at the inn on or about July 16, 2017. It alleges that the inn includes a water-themed playground for children as well as a swimming pool "with no separation between the two."

The inn and its owners, the suit says, were aware that children were playing in the area without supervision and knew "or reasonably should have known...that the water-themed playground and swimming pool were unreasonably dangerous for use by children without the supervision of an adult or an on-duty lifeguard."

It alleges that the inn failed to "reasonably and properly restrict access to the water-themed playground and swimming pool by children" and also "failed to have an on-duty lifeguard present." Due to the inn's negligence, the suit says Witt "was able to access the water-themed playground and swimming pool without an adult or on-duty lifeguard present and drowned in the swimming pool." They also failed to have proper physical barriers to prevent entry to the water areas.

Among the other alleged acts of negligence, the suit says the inn failed to properly train its employees, staff and/or agents.

The family of Witt, the suit says, "is entitled to an award of punitive damages," the amount of which is to be determined by a jury.

Witt's parents, Sabrina Chandler and Darshawn Witt, Sr., suffered "the loss of...the value of life including loss of comfort...loss of solace..loss of affection and...loss of love," among other damages sustained.

In an answer to the 2017 lawsuit, the defendant denies accusations of negligence and states the adult responsible for the child are at fault in the drowning.

The response further states that the responsible adult broke hotel rules by allowing the child to leave their room and enter the pool area without supervision.

The hotel is continuing to operate as of this publication. WVLT News will continue to monitor developments in this story.