The parents of twin toddlers who drowned in their Deerfield Beach apartment complex pool have filed a lawsuit against the property owners, alleging they were negligent in failing to secure the gate at the pool.
The parents' attorney, Boca Raton-based Andrew Yaffa, said the tragic April 8 deaths should never have happened at Tivoli Park apartments in the 600 block of Siesta Key Circle.
"This was totally preventable," Yaffa said. "Residents [who live there] said you just needed to push on the gate and it would open. Imagine a doorknob that didn't work. It was there for show. All you needed to do was push on the gate and it would open wide open."
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed Thursday in Broward Circuit Court against James and Marta Batmasian, SK Venture Holdings LLC and Tivoli Park Master Association Inc.
The Batmasian couple could not be reached for comment despite a call and email to their office. Their attorney, Jason Lazar, could not be reached for comment despite a call to his office.
Harmony and Harmani West, 2, drowned in a pool at the Siesta Key Apartments located within the Tivoli Park apartment complex in Deerfield Beach. Their parents, Howard West and Lashandra Bush, had returned home from work at Target around lunchtime, ate, and everyone napped. When Bush woke, her girls weren't sleeping next to her and she immediately began searching.
By then it was too late. The twins had made their way out of the second-floor apartment, down a flight of stairs, and into the pool, accessible by an unlocked gate, Yaffa said. He did not elaborate how the twins were able to wander out of the apartment.
They were found by a man and woman from North Carolina who were visiting the complex and went to use the pool, authorities said. They pulled the girls from the water, but efforts to revive them failed.
The Batmasian family also owns Investments Limited, which is the largest property owner in downtown Boca Raton and Boca's beach side's largest commercial developer. The executive officers of Tivoli are agents of investments Limited, according to the lawsuit.
According to the company's website, Investments Limited owns and manages more than 3,000 apartments and more than two million square feet of commercial space in both Florida and Massachusetts.
The Batmasians are active in Holocaust and human rights education. Marta Batmasian is a Boca Raton real estate investor and Armenian community leader.
The lawsuit was announced Friday at a press conference held at Yaffa's office. Bush sat before reporters clutching both of the girl's pink security blankets. She's sleeping with them these days for comfort, Yaffa said. Their father wiped tears from Bush's eyes. The girls were their only children.
At least six children have died by drowning in a South Florida swimming pool in the past two months. Harmony and Harmani West were the second set of twins to fall into a pool; In Sunrise in early March, twin toddlers, also 2, were taken to a hospital after they were pulled from a pool. One child died five days later, and the other has remained hospitalized.