The family of former GLT staff member Liz Larson has filed a lawsuit against the City of Wilmington over her drowning last summer, alleging city officials have failed for decades to protect visitors from a river dam’s deadly underwater vortex.
Larson, 36, died in July 2017 after the inflatable boat she was in went over the dam on the Kankakee River. Larson has been hailed as a hero for saving the life of a 6-year-old girl who was with her, though she was unable to save herself.
The 12-count lawsuit, filed Feb. 9 in Will County court, alleges that the City of Wilmington failed or refused to implement recommendations to make the dam safer that were laid out in a 2007 state report. It also alleges the city failed to properly warn visitors like Larson about the danger posed by the dam and its underwater vortex.
The lawsuit leans heavily on a list of 22 people it says have been killed at the dam, plus 23 more who’ve been rescued there, since 1982. The city has shown “an utter indifference to the safety of the public by inviting the public to a dangerous and deadly location,” according to the lawsuit.
“How many more innocent lives have to be unjustly lost to the dam before the city corrects the problem?” family attorney Khalid Hasan said in a statement.
This is the second lawsuit filed by Hasan’s Chicago law firm against Wilmington related to the dam. The first lawsuit relates to the 2016 drowning deaths of teenagers Abigail and Eder Arroyo. Eder got into trouble in the water and his sister, Abigail, tried to save him. They both drowned. Their family sued the city, seeking more than $1 million in damages. That case is still pending, Hasan said Thursday.
Messages left with Wilmington’s city attorney were not immediately returned Thursday. Last summer after Larson’s death, Wilmington’s interim city administrator, Frank Koehler, declined comment on the dam’s danger to the public. But Koehler said there were seven or eight signs near the dam urging visitors to be cautious.
“We have a lot of signage in that area,” he said.
The lawsuit was filed by David Larson, Liz’s father. It also names as defendants a nearby motel and cottage and canoe rental company.
The lawsuit is due in court for a case management conference on May 30.
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