South Bend settles drowning death lawsuit for $12K

A family that accused South Bend of being negligent in their daughter’s drowning death has settled a lawsuit for $12,000.

Chrystal Reyes, 23, and Nick Sams, 31, drowned in the St. Joseph River in South Bend after accidentally driving off a boat ramp in December 2014, the South Bend Tribune reported .

Reyes’ family sued the city in September 2015, alleging that a lack of safety measures at the ramp led to the deaths. The lawsuit claimed that inadequate lighting made it difficult to see the boat launch at night, which also doesn’t have a barrier or gate to prevent vehicles from entering the river there.

Court records show the city argued that the ramp is visible and doesn’t pose an unreasonable risk of harm. The city said neon-yellow reflective stakes outline the border between the parking lot near the ramp and the river. The city said there are multiple street lamps that illuminate the area and multiple signs that warn against parking and swimming at the location.

The city also alleged that Reyes and Sams were trespassing at the time of the accident. City ordinances indicate that parks are closed after 11 p.m.

The judge noted that there aren’t signs near the boat ramp that clearly show the park’s hours.

A settlement was reached outside of court earlier this month. The city doesn’t take responsibility for the accident in the settlement agreement.

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