AKRON, Ohio — The family of an Akron teen who drowned during an event with one of the city's high school football teams has hired an attorney to investigate his death.
Fourteen-year-old Toshaye Pope, an incoming freshman at Akron Early College High School, died last Thursday after going under the waters of Melanie Lake in Springfield Township. Since his specialty school does not offer football, he was permitted to play for Ellet Community Learning Center, and was on an outing with the team during the incident.
The Cleveland-based law firm Tittle & Perlmuter specifically described Toshaye as being "under the supervision of the Akron Public Schools System, the Ellet High School Football Program, and Melanie Lake, Inc." Additionally, lawyers claim Pope's parents "were never informed of the team's plans [for an outing] until they received a phone call from law enforcement to rush to the hospital."
Lead attorney Allen Tittle released the following statement:
"This family is heartbroken and in grief because of the loss of their son. This young man was the kind of son every parent would hope for – not only was he a scholar-athlete, but also his positive personality could light up the room. Obviously, the family is devastated.
"A freshman football player's family should not have to worry about whether their son is going to come home from team events. We intend to get answers for Toshaye's grieving family and request prayers as they try to get through this unthinkable loss. We will investigate whether the safety rules were followed by all involved; and if they were not, hold those responsible accountable for their actions."
A witness account posted online said Toshaye and others were swimming in the deep end near the diving boards when Toshaye drowned, and also claimed lifeguards weren't around at the time. 3News cameras went to the park four days later and found lifeguard chairs empty near the same spot.
Akron Public Schools have not commented since the Pope family retained Tittle, but on Monday said they were "saddened by the news of the passing of this young man and [have] begun an inquiry into just what happened." Melanie Lake managing partner Jeremy Caudill also released a statement on the park's Facebook page Tuesday claiming there were five lifeguards on duty at the time of Toshaye's drowning and that his organization takes "all safety measures possible, including meeting state regulations and maintaining current appropriate permits."
"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and loved ones of this young man who have suffered this horrific loss," Caudill added. "Our Melanie Lake family is thinking about you and mourning with you."