Parents file suit against water park over child’s drowning

Updated at 5:24 p.m. — The parents of a 14-year-old Port Allen boy who drowned last summer at Cajun Lagoon water park near Denham Springs are suing the park, claiming a combination of murky water and inflatable amusement devices tethered to the bottom of the lake by ropes created a deadly scenario.

Nick Kissner’s parents filed the wrongful death lawsuits Wednesday, in two different judicial districts, on the anniversary of his July 30, 2013, drowning at the park off La. 16 between Denham Springs and Watson.

The park shut down the day of the drowning and reopened three days later.

The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office later found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the boy’s death.

Jason Ray, one of the park’s managers named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said Thursday that he had not seen the suits and could not comment.

The boy’s parents, John Q. Kissner Jr. and Elena Kissner, are represented by the Gonzales law firm of Gauthier & Amedee and Port Allen lawyer Kristopher Kahao.

“Please tell me, how can caring human beings dig a hole in the ground, fill it with nasty, ugly water, create a ‘cesspool,’ for lack of a better word, and then invite little, unsuspecting children to come swim, play and have a good time?” André Gauthier asked in an interview Thursday. “All in the name of making money — profit. To me, that’s a breach of trust.”

“Nick was only 14. Can you imagine?” he added.

The suits suggest the boy, who was not wearing a life jacket, inadvertently swam underneath one of the inflatable flotation devices and was either trapped or entangled by the tethers, or trapped underneath the device itself.

“The water was so muddy and murky that it was easily foreseeable … that a swimmer could very easily find themselves trapped underneath (an) inflatable, in darkness, entangled in the rope tethers and unable to reach the surface — A potentially deadly scenario,” the suits state.

The suits, which seek an unspecified amount of damages, were filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish and the 18th Judicial District Court in West Baton Rouge Parish.

The Kissners live in West Baton Rouge.

The Baton Rouge church that took the boy and others to the park as part of a youth group field trip also is a defendant, as are the park’s lifeguards and the youth group chaperones.

Cajun Lagoon opened in April 2013. The family-oriented park features a man-made lake and offers swimming, water slides and volleyball, among other aquatic activities.