9 Investigates: Florida family sues Intex over son's near drowning

by: Daralene Jones Updated:

A 2-year old Florida boy nearly drowned and his parents blame a major manufacturer of above ground pools.

A federal lawsuit against Intex questions why the company doesn't offer safety alternatives for ladders used to access its pools.

When the parents found Blake Sutor floating in their pool, he lost too much oxygen to his brain. He now has severe brain damage.

“The parents were busy like a lot of other parents were, and each one though the other one had him,” said family attorney Alex Gillen.

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Gillen filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Sutor family against Intex Recreation Corporation. He accused the company of "selling defective products, including the above ground pool and ladder.” Gillen said acts or omissions of Intex Recreation caused Blake's injuries.

“We found through the patent literature that this was an issue identified more than 50 years ago where you started seeing alternative designs,” Gillen said.

Several videos were produced in preparation for trial that showed four alternative designs that can block young children from gaining access to the pool by simply climbing the ladder.

The director of risk management of Intex told Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones that similar safety features are required by law in parts of Europe. However, the director was adamant that removing the ladder is the safest option.

The company has performed its own research, even initiating design work for a cover. It determined it would take much longer, and ultimately removing the ladder is just easier and faster.           

The company has made improvements to its online safety video, but 9 Investigates was told that wasn't because of Blake's accident.

“Certainly they are capable of doing it and they do actually do it make these alternative designs, just they're not required to do it here,” Gillen said.

A new federal report showed drownings have decreased by 17 percent for children under five since 2010, in part because of a safety campaign. Only about 17 percent of the drownings happened in above ground pools.

Blake’s parents said their work now is to make his life as normal as possible.

The lawsuit was settled, but the details are sealed. However, both sides told 9 Investigates neither side admitted fault and determined a settlement was in the best interest of Blake.