Cardenas Family Looks for Answers, Glenview Park District Denies Drowning Liability

Vicente Cardenas' uncle speaks to Patch about the family's tragic loss. Glenview Police are still investigating the drowning and until further notice, the Glenview Park District has suspended use of Roosevelt and Flick pools for all camps.

Editor's note: A previous version of the story stated that the investigation of Vicente's death had been closed. Today, Glenview Police said there was a miscommunication within the department and that the case remains open and active. 


Vicente Cardenas was laid to rest Tuesday, four days after he drowned at a Glenview Park District pool.

While police have closed the investigation, his family is still looking for answers as to why the 

Cardenas Family Reaction

“We know he was there at a class field trip and he was not wearing a life preserver,” said Val Gurvits, Vicente’s uncle and the Cardenas family spokesman. “We know that there were approximately 18 children on that field trip and there were seven or eight teachers.”

Vicente, who was less than one week from his fifth birthday and lived in Glenview with his parents, was at Roosevelt Pool with a group of campers from Wesley Day Care Center. His death was ruled  the next day.

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Sgt. Dave Sostak of the Glenview Police told Patch that the department investigation into Vicente's death has not been closed and remains active.

"As a matter of policy, the Glenview Police Department does not comment on open investigations," officials said in a press release this afternoon. "Further information will be released when the investigation is completed."

Since 2008, Sostak said there have been 14 incidents where public safety officials have been called to the complex, but nothing involving drowning situations. These occurrences centered on people away from the water such as a visitor slipping and falling on the grounds, he said.

Now, the Cardenas family is trying to find out who was responsible for watching Vicente at the time, Gurvits said, and while he noted litigation has not been ruled out, he added they would still like a more complete report as to what happened that day. 

Park District Assesses Liability

On Tuesday, park district officials said the matter and procedures are still under review. According to the park district’s attorney, liability is not a concern.

“I don’t think the park district is liable for this,” said lawyer Edward Dutton.

Dutton said he had not seen a police report or discussed the incident with Wesley officials but promised a complete look at existing rules and regulations will take place.

He also added that while there are no security cameras at the pool, there are several throughout the park district grounds.  

According to park district officials, 15 lifeguards plus a manager and an assistant manager were on duty at the time Vicente drowned.

Additionally, the Cook County Department of Public Health inspected Roosevelt Pool on Monday and found the park district was in compliance with all regulations, according to a press release.

Wesley officials did not return a phone call Tuesday requesting further comment on the matter, but Executive Director Ellen Fagerburg told Patch over the weekend that the situation was under review.

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe told the Chicago Tribune the state welfare agency had never investigated the Glenview-based child care center outside of minor licensing violations for "routine matters of record keeping and paperwork."

Operations Moving Forward

In the wake of the incident, the Park District shut down pool operations over the weekend. Now open for individuals and families, the Park District announced Tuesday 

“We are taking it week by week,” said Park District Executive Director Chuck Balling. “We are going through the process right now of looking at all of our policies and we are assisting the Police and Fire Department.”

Balling also explained the safety procedures that are already in place.

Before any individual can be certified as a lifeguard, he or she must complete a 24-hour certification course in addition to a series of other training measures, he said.

Lifeguards are also required to complete weekly in-service training sessions throughout the season, Balling told Patch, and new lifeguards are placed in a two-hour shadowing process before they are allowed to watch swimmers on their own.

As for attendance numbers at the time of Vicente's drowning, Balling said there were 750 people in the area, which is slightly more than half of capacity.

Despite those numbers, many readers expressed concern in the comments section on Patch about the amount of swimmers allowed at the pool.

“I’m not surprised it happened,” wrote Francesca Meder, who has been going to the Roosevelt pool for two years. “I just thought it was crazy as to how many campers they allowed at once. I intentionally did not sign my five-year-old son this year at the Park District because I thought it too crowded for safety.”

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Louis S. June 21, 2012 at 12:16 PM
In a very crowded pool filled with young kids it is nearly impossible for a lifeguard to see every child who is underwater. Should they jump-in every time a kid is in the bottom of the pool? How many times do kids challenge each other with feats of who can hold their breath underwater the longest? The fault is not with the lifeguards on duty, they did thier job well. Remember the rule "don't swim alone"? The question is, who from the day camp was responsible for: a. determining the swimming ability of Vicente b. setting the rules as to far Vicente can go in a zero-depth pool such as the one at Roosevelt c. watching to ensure that Vicente did not exceed the limit d. responding when he did A child that age must be constanly watched to ensure their safety and the reposnsibilty is SOLELY with guardian - NOT THE LIFEGUARD! With only 2 to 3 campers to watch, there is no reason Vicente should not still be alive today save for the the negligence of the camp staffer.
Tony D June 22, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I agree to a point. I was there this day when this happened. I saw the whole thing, which is on my mind every day. I have a 5 year old son and can't imagine the pain this family is going through. However, on this particular day the pool, for the amout of children that were there, was well under staffed. I saw a news report on TV and it showed a life guard IN the water, which WAS NOT TRUE. It's to my understanding that the pool had 12-14 guards on duty. I highly doubt they were all pool side when this happened. I feel BOTH the camp as well as the Park District should both be accountable.
G. Pintang June 22, 2012 at 03:38 PM
The park district is absolutley responsible and so is Wesley...No one did their jobs that day. Changes need to be made and responsibility accepted. Stop denying your faults and make the neccessary changes to make sure that this does NOT happen EVER again!
Val Gurvits June 29, 2012 at 12:14 AM
I write once again on behalf of the family of Vicente Cardenas. We are thankful to all for your words of comfort and your sympathy. We continue to be frustrated by the lack of information from Wesley School and from the authorities. We are therefore asking anyone that has any videos from that day (Friday, June 15th) at Roosevelt Pool to please step forward and share it with us. We would like to obtain any possible evidence about the number of people at the pool, the possible location of Vicente's group, the caregivers, the lifeguards, etc. Thank you. I can be reached at vgurvits@bostonlawgroup.com or 617-928-1804.
A Glenview Parent July 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Dear Fellow Wesley Parents, Many of us have been sitting on the sidelines, grieving for the Cardenas family, frustrated with the silence, and wondering what we can do to help. As of July 26, the Cardenas Family still knows absolutely NOTHING. I mean not a word from police, from Wesley center or from DCFS. Also, as many of you are aware, the investigation continues surrounding the events of June 15. This investigation is centered on the drowning and investigators are directing their attention to only those involved (employees, witnesses, etc). Many Wesley parents have had their own experiences with the center and those interactions will never be made part of the investigation unless you share them. (See part 2)
A Glenview Parent July 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
(Part 2) Here’s how you can help: DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) is trying to piece together a picture of Wesley Child Care Center but is unable to get any straight information directly from the center. This process is done through attorneys and can take a long time. The questions are direct and do not include any/all of the other information necessary to help the authorities create an honest picture of how Wesley Child Care was operating its facility and caring for the children leading up to the accident. (See part 3)
A Glenview Parent July 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
(Part 3) I know many of you have encountered a situation with the Wesley center, a question of policy, a preventable injury to your child, a lapse in communication etc. This is the type of information needed. Please call Carolina Bono (DCFS) at 312-636-3178 or carolina.bono@illinois.gov with any information. What you might think is inconsequential may be vital in helping piece together a larger picture of Wesley Child Care.


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