No Criminal Charges in Drowning of Harlem Student on School Trip

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Nicole Suriel died after going to the beach on a school field trip. There were no lifeguards on duty.

    No criminal charges will be filed in last summer's drowning death of a Harlem student, according to the Nassau District Attorney's office.

    Nicole Suriel, 12, died in the waters off Long Beach on June 22.  Strong currents swept her from shore while on a school approved class trip with 23 other students from the Columbia Secondary school. 

    There were no lifeguards on duty at the time.

    The students were accompanied by an English teacher and two other adult chaperones, including a 19-year-old intern.

    "While the collective failure to prevent Nicole Suriel's death is particularly tragic, the evidence does not support a finding of criminality on the part of any of those involved," said the DA's report on the drowning.

    "The decision to visit the beach and allow the students to enter the ocean may not have been wise, but the evidence does not establish that it was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct a reasonable person would have observed."

    Prior to the report's release Monday, some school parents had criticized the decision to allow students in the water with no lifeguards on duty and with only three adult chaperones on hand.

    A video taken at the beach that day showed calm ocean conditions, according to the DA's report.  The school chaperones restricted non-swimmers like Suriel from entering water higher than their knees; swimmers could not enter higher than their waists. 

    The school chaperones were, however, unaware of both rip currents in the area and shifting water depths just off shore, according to the report.

    Kids' screams eventually echoed across the beach, as six students found themselves in water over their heads.  Five were pulled to safety.  An onlooker reached Suriel but was unable to hold her, as the currents pulled her out to sea.

    Despite the tragedy, the DA's report indicated that the actions of the chaperones was neither reckless nor negligent.  There were many people swimming that day, the report pointed out, including other children accompanied by teachers and parents.