Suit filed over drowning at Smith Lake

David Yates Oct. 30, 2007, 10:20am

Aimee Varner lost her life this summer when she drowned at Smith Lake Swimming Park in Orange County.

Seeking financial compensation for her death, Chad Landry, Varner's benefactor, is suing the swimming park and its owners/employees, claiming Smith Lake lifeguards negligently allowed Varner to drown.

Landry filed suit against Smith Lake Swimming Park, Paula Christian, Richard Christian and Wilma Lazen in Orange County District Court on Oct. 24.

According to the plaintiff's petition and stories published in the Beaumont Enterprise, at around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 8, 2007, Varner was at the park on Smith Lake swimming with her family when she got on a cable line, which rides swimmers down into the water.

Witnesses said she entered the water and did not resurface.

Orange County Emergency Services District 1 and the Beaumont Dive Team were dispatched to Smith Lake. Varner's body was retrieved around 8 p.m. and she was pronounced deceased by Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Derry Dunn.

A preliminary autopsy showed that Varner died from lack of oxygen, leading the examiner to suggest that the 31-year-old Vidor resident may have had her breath knocked out when she hit the water, which was 18 feet deep.

"Varner was not properly supervised by Smith Lake employees," the suit said. "Specifically, she was allowed to drown without any intervention from�Smith Lake�lifeguards.

"Additionally, the defendants failed to provide the proper safety equipment for activities, which were permitted and allowed at Smith Lake."

The suit goes on to allege that the defendants were negligent for failing to properly train and supervise their life guards and customers and for failing to provide proper safety equipment.

"Plaintiff seeks to recover survival damages for the pain and suffering and mental anguish suffered by Aimee Varner," the suit said.

Landry is also suing for wrongful death damages, funeral expenses and pecuniary loss.

He is represented by Trenton Bond, attorney for the Reaud, Morgan & Quinn law firm.

The case has been assigned to Judge Patrick Clark, 128th Judicial District.

Case No. A-070607-c

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