Family of 5-year-old who died on kayaking trip reaches record settlement

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 5:21 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 19, 2021 at 5:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The parents of a 5-year-old boy who drowned during a school field trip two years ago have reached a record settlement with Mid-Pacific Institute.

Mid-Pac will pay $7.2 million to the family of Alaric Chiu, who sued the school over his death in 2019.

“Part of the significance of this settlement is that it is the largest publicly disclosed settlements in Hawaii history for the death of a child, and so it tells the public how important it was to bring this case,” said the boy’s father, Lucius Chiu.

Attorney Jim Bickerton, who handled the lawsuit, said the amount will send a strong message that schools and other educational institutions and businesses “must do what’s necessary to ensure children’s safety.”

The school issued this statement today:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Alaric Chiu ... There is no greater responsibility or higher priority than the safety of our students, and we reaffirm our commitment to taking all necessary actions,” said Paul Turnbull, Mid-Pacific’s president.

According to their suit, Alaric Chiu took part in a Mid-Pac spring break day camp and had gone kayaking in Kaaawa with a school counselor when the overloaded vessel capsized.

The suit said the boy could not swim and the parents were never told the kids would go in the water.

Four people were on the kayak and none of them had life vests. Federal and state law require anyone under the age of 13 on a boat or kayak in the ocean to have a life vest.

Experts hired by the Chiu family pushed the school to implement a number of safety measures, including:

  • Ensuring workers are qualified for their positions;
  • Requiring necessary and up-to-date training for workers;
  • Developing and enforcing proper safety policies and procedures for school activities;
  • And requiring purposeful evaluations of employees.

The school said it has implemented several similar measures since the accident. They include a restructuring of the school’s senior management, the hiring of a new compliance and safety officer, and new off-campus trip protocols for faculty, staff and volunteers.

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