Man Dies After Woman Finds Him Unresponsive in Hot Tub at Luxury Queens Spa: Friend, Police

An 84-year-old man died after being found submerged in a hot tub at a luxury spa center in Queens by another patron when she stepped into the water, the woman's friend and police tell NBC 4 New York.

Hock Ma, of Forest Hills, died Sunday evening after being pulled from the water of the rooftop hot tub at Spa Castle in College Point, police said. The medical examiner said Tuesday Ma died of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. It wasn't clear how long he had been under the water.

Jessica Pescatore was inside the five-story spa, which offers pools, saunas and relaxation rooms, along with other amenities, when she said her friend, who had gone to the outdoor hot tub, ran inside screaming for help, saying there was an unresponsive man in the water.

She was "actually walking into the water and felt something by her feet," Pescatore said of her friend. "It was the gentleman. He went under and no one noticed him." 

Spa Castle staff pulled Ma out of the water and administered aid until emergency responders arrived, Pescatore said. Ma was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The Health Department says spa pools are required to be monitored on a regular basis by an aquatic supervisor, though it wasn't clear if any were watching the tub Ma was in. Pescatore said she didn't see staff members walking by regularly to check on people in the pools and that the area wasn't lit well.

Spa Castle spokeswoman Stephanie Chon said in a statement that Ma had been pulled from a shallow spa pool and a certified manager initiated CPR.

"Safety precautions are clearly posted in our facilities and the staff in the area is CPR certified," Chon said. "Our thoughts are with the family at this time."

The policies section on Spa Castle's College Point website urges swimmers to "use caution while utilizing the pools" and to avoid excessive swimming, running or diving. It says "Spa Castle will not be responsible for any injuries that result from these prohibited activities."

Meanwhile, NBC 4 New York's I-Team found the 100,000-square foot spa in College Point has had 28 critical violations at its indoor and outdoor facilities over the last two years, including citations for inadequate life-saving equipment and lack of qualified pool supervisors, according to inspection data from the city Health Department.

The Health Department conducts annual inspections and compliance inspections of bathing establishments. 

Inspection records show the outdoor facility was cited in April 2013 for not having a developed and updated pool safety plan. The indoor facility was cited in April and September over inadequate life-saving equipment and lifeguard chairs, pool overcrowding and insufficient qualified supervisory staff on duty. The facility has also been knocked four times for "operations records not maintained/submitted monthly," records show.

The Health Department said the facility corrected all its violations at the time of the last inspection in September. It has A grades for the food service establishments in the facility.  

The agency said it is investigating the facility, including its safety plan, following Ma's death. 

Meanwhile, his son, James, is preparing to bury him.

"It does warrant a closer look so this doesn't happen to someone else and it's a shame it happened to my father," James Ma said. 

Spa Castle opened a location in Manhattan earlier this month. It has another location in Texas.  

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