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Attorney: LAUSD Negligence Caused Drowning Of Special Needs Boy

LOS ANGELES ( — An attorney for the family of a 16-year-old special needs boy said Thursday that negligence at the hands of the LAUSD resulted in the drowning death of the teen.

Erick Ortiz, a sophomore at Garfield High School, drowned around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the 500 block of South Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles, the sheriff's department said.

Attorney Louis Carrillo said Ortiz was on a class trip to Atlantic Park when he was "left alone and unattended" and wandered over to a pool.

"The LAUSD knew that the child could not be left alone for even a second and the child had a full time Teaching Assistant assigned to him since 2012," he added.

Ortiz was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The LAUSD released the following statement Thursday morning:

"The District extends heartfelt condolences to the family on its tragic loss.  The District will continue to cooperate with the ongoing law enforcement investigation.  Crisis counselors are on site to help the school community.  We will have no further comment at this time."

The boy's family is demanding an independent investigation as to why their child was left alone.

CBS2's Jeff Nguyen reported the Sheriff's department now says Ortiz was seen jumping into the deep end of the pool -- 12 feet deep --  and coming out at least twice – before diving in a third time.

A lifeguard spotted Ortiz in distress and pulled him out and administered CPR with two other life guards.

"My mother tried to confront tried to confront the T.A. and he had no answers for her," said Eric's brother Melvin.

Ortiz's family says his mother did sign a permission slip for him to go on the field trip.

"The paper that my mom signed, it had nothing mentioned to do with the pool, with a trip to the pool. My brother did not know how to swim. His assistant was well aware of that," said his sister Leslie.

Investigators say Ortiz had swim trunks on but they haven't revealed if he was wearing shoes or a shirt.

The sheriff's department is working to verify where the T.A.  was at the time of the drowning.

Investigators say there were about 200 kids at this park yesterday afternoon.

About 25 were in or around the pool, Nguyen reported.

"He was never left alone. Last night was the first time that my brother was not in his bed, " said Leslie, choking back tears.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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