The family of a Main Line boy who was severely brain-damaged in 2011 after he fell into a rain-swollen culvert and was pulled into an underground drain has sued Radnor Township.
Logan Schweiter, who was 12 at the time, was playing with two friends at the culvert on July 25, 2011, when he was swept away. He was underwater for 20 minutes and was found unconscious in Ithan Creek about a half-mile from where he entered the water. He was resuscitated and transported to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Schweiter suffered cardiac arrest, pulmonary edema, aspiration pneumonia, seizures, and profound brain damage, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 5 in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by his parents — Melissa Schweiter and Martin Schweiter. He was diagnosed with severe hypoxic encephalopathy.
"Logan is in a near-vegetative state and suffers from permanent physical and mental injuries. He requires 24-hour nursing and custodial care," according to the suit.
The complaint alleges that Radnor Township violated Schweiter's civil rights and that the township knew of the hazardous conditions at the the stormwater culvert on Aberdeen Avenue near St. Katherine of Siena School and Radnor Middle School.
Stormwater management studies in 1973, 1975, 1980, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2005, and 2011 had recommended improvements for safety at the culvert yet Radnor "chose to ignore these recommendations," according to the lawsuit.
"For over 40 years, Defendant, Township of Radnor, was aware that children who played in the culvert would have no way of apprehending the pool of water created at the culvert would cause them to be violently drawn into the water and underground into the culvert and into a system of pipes," the suit alleges.
The danger created by the township "caused Logan to nearly drown in the Ithan Creek leaving him brain dead, thereby violating his constitutionally protected rights to life and bodily integrity," the lawsuit states.
The Schweiters are seeking damages, along with court fees, costs and interest.
Township officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Thomas J. Duffy, a Philadelphia attorney representing the Schweiter family, said Logan, who lives with his mother in Devon, undergoes constant therapy and has received stem-cell treatment.
"He communicates sometimes with blinking, sometimes making some noise. He occasionally smiles if he understands what you are talking about," Duffy said.
A stormwater management study from 2011, the same year as the accident, said the culvert "is undersized and causes consistent and sometimes life-threatening flooding events." Duffy provided a copy of the study to The Inquirer.
The report, prepared by Chagrin Valley Engineering, Ltd., of Ohio, for Radnor Township, further stated that continuing development in the vicinity of the culvert would make "reestablishing a proper flow regime extremely expensive and unpopular to correct."