Alia Jaiko died after being pulled into a tube at a Houston Hilton hotel pool, lawsuit says
Alia Jaiko died after being pulled into a tube at a Houston Hilton hotel pool, lawsuit says

Alia Jaiko was swimming with her family in a Texas hotel swimming pool when she was “forcefully sucked in” by a gap in the pool’s flow system, according to a lawsuit filed by her family. The 8-year-old’s body was found hours after he was reported missing “in a large tube in the pool area,” Houston police said in a statement.

“She just disappeared,” Richard Nava, a lawyer representing the family, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, calling the March 23 incident “horrifying.” He added: “Her poor little body was contorted as she was sucked into that hole and 20 feet back.”

Houston police said the girl was reported missing around 5:45 p.m. Saturday after “swimming with other family members in a lazy river style swimming pool at the DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Brookhollow Hotel.” She was found around 11:30 p.m. and pronounced dead by paramedics, police said, adding that they were “continuing to investigate the incident” and were awaiting the results of an autopsy.

This week, the family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the hotel, which is named as a defendant in the suit along with parent company Hilton Worldwide Holdings. The family is also suing the hotel’s local operators, Unique Crowne Hospitality, accusing the parties of “gross negligence”.

“It took the fire department 13 hours to get her physical body out of the pipe,” Justin Martinez, a communications representative for Nava’s legal team and the Jaico family, said in a phone interview Wednesday, adding that the family’s legal representatives will file for a restraining order opposite the hotel so that the pool area is secured and so “nothing on site is compromised”.

According to the lawsuit, Jaico “loved to swim” and her mother, Jose Daniela Jaico Ahumada, had rented a room at the hotel that day “to enjoy a day of swimming with her family.”

Nava told reporters there was a “water flow problem” inside the pool that caused Aaliyah to be sucked into what the lawsuit described as an “unsecured open gap.”

The hole was about 12 to 16 inches wide, Nava said, adding that responders, including the Houston Fire Department, had to “break up” the concrete pipe to retrieve Alia’s body.

“We are seeking justice for Alia because this could have been avoided,” Nawa said, adding that Alia’s relatives were “devastated” by her death. The family is seeking at least $1 million in damages, the suit says.

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Aaliyah’s death accidental, saying she died of drowning and mechanical asphyxiation, when an object or physical force prevents someone from breathing, the Associated Press reported.

The pool is now “closed until further notice” with “re-inspection required,” according to a Houston Health Department water facilities inspection report.

The pool was not up to standard because, among other violations, “the owner/manager did not have documentation of the drain cover,” Porfirio Villarreal, the department’s public information officer, said in an email Wednesday, adding that “the department will closure once the violations are corrected.”

In a statement emailed to The Post on Wednesday, a Hilton spokesperson said the company was “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of a young girl at the DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Brookhollow” and added that the property is “independently owned and operated by a third party country.”

Hilton said it “does not own, manage or control the day-to-day operations of the property and does not employ any of the property’s staff or its third-party operators.”

A representative for the DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Brookhollow hotel hung up on the phone twice Wednesday when reached for comment by The Washington Post, saying they could not help. A media consultant who Hilton said represents the hotel owner did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Ahumada, Alia’s mother, “pulled away” from her daughter for a “brief moment,” Nava told reporters on Tuesday. As soon as she realized her daughter was missing, around 4:50 p.m. on Saturday, she alerted the hotel staff.

Around 5:20 p.m., Ahumada asked hotel management to review the surveillance video, but hotel officials said the police needed to be present for that, the lawsuit said, adding that Ahumada called 911 around 5:45 p.m. .and reported her daughter missing. When police were granted access to review security camera footage, it became clear that Aaliyah “went underwater and never surfaced,” the document said.

Her body was found after a recovery crew drained the pool and used video cameras attached to 20-foot poles to inspect the pipes, the lawsuit said.

“Things at the hotel could have been done a lot better,” Nava said Tuesday. “There was a lot of wasted time.”

Tuesday’s pool inspection report noted that “one suction outlet cover” from the pool was “partially missing from the suction pipe where a search and recovery was conducted” and that the pool operator “failed to obtain a pre-opening inspection.” after the pool was rebuilt.

Official safety guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend not letting children swim unsupervised and encourage parents and caregivers to learn how to give CPR.

The website cites the Pool and Spa Safety Act, which states that “all public pools and spas must have drain grates or covers that meet safety standards.” The organization notes that “powerful suction from a pool or spa drain can even ensnare an adult.”

In his email Wednesday, Nava said Hilton “tying their brand to this particular location raises a lot of questions.” Nava said his team is seeking to examine “what process and due diligence the Hilton hotel brand conducts in its franchise agreements.”

“Aliyah was a beautiful, smart little girl who loved to swim and play Roblox. Her funeral will be on Thursday,” he added.

“Thank you my girl for teaching me what love is,” Aaliyah’s mother wrote in a tribute to her daughter on Facebook. “After every battle we’ve been through together, we didn’t win this one.”

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