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Family Files Lawsuit Against Niles YMCA After Man Nearly Drowned

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 61-year-old man who was released from the hospital on Wednesday, three-and-a-half weeks after nearly drowning at a north suburban YMCA.

Yousef Bornstein, 61, regularly swam at the Leaning Tower Y in Niles, but on May 28 his swim almost ended in death.


Lawyer Tim Cavanagh said Bornstein apparently had a heart attack while swimming laps at the Leaning Tower YMCA, and went underwater in full view of two lifeguards, neither of which jumped in to save him. He said the entire episode is played out on the Y's security video.

"The video makes clear he was underwater in excess of 5 minutes," Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh calls video of the incident very troubling.

"Mr. Bornsteen had a medical condition. He was in the pool and went underwater in full view of a seated lifeguard. She was in an elevated chair. She was about 10 or 15 feet from him."

Cavanagh said there was another lifeguard at the pool as well.

"The lifeguards were talking, distracted at a time. They clearly didn't do their job and get him out," Cavanagh said.

After more than five minutes underwater, another swimmer discovered Bornstein at the bottom of the pool. Bornstein was then pulled out of the pool unconscious and was hospitalized with serious brain injuries.

Yousef Bornstein in the hospital after a near drowning experience (CBS)

Cavanagh said Bornstein was released from the hospital on Wednesday.

"It is a miracle, he is alive after being underwater so long but he has a difficult recovery ahead of him," Cavanagh said. "This accident never should have happened. The swimming pool was not crowded at the time and the two lifeguards had a clear view of Mr. Bornstein. Lifeguards need to properly trained, supervised and must do their jobs."

"I'm honestly shocked," said Bornstein's son, Elisha. "I almost have no words. It's just hard for me to really fathom, to think about that. It's very rough."

The lawsuit accuses the Leaning Tower YMCA and the two lifeguards of negligence for not noticing Bornstein was in distress and underwater when he was in full view of the lifeguards and not immediately pulling him out of the water and providing emergency assistance.

The YMCA of Metro Chicago wishes Bornstein a full recovery and said the lifeguards have been suspended and that the Y's policies are being reviewed. Below is their full statement.

Our hearts go out to the family of Yosef Bornstein and we wish him a full and swift recovery. We want to assure all members that their health and safety is of primary importance. That's why, as is our custom, we promptly started our own fact-finding process after this incident. The lifeguards were immediately put on administrative leave and a disciplinary review is underway. Further, we continually review our policies and procedures to reflect YMCA of the USA best practices, including ongoing review of certification, staffing and procedures, as well as lifeguard training from both YUSA and the American Red Cross.

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