PRINCETON: Officials react to Community Park Pool drowning death settlement


By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton officials broke their silence Monday on the decision by their insurance fund to settle for $1.75 million a civil lawsuit brought by the father of a local man who drowned in Community Park Pool last year, in what Mayor Liz Lempert called a “community tragedy.”
The Mid Jersey Joint Insurance Fund made the call to end a case surrounding the death of 24-year-old Colin P. Simonelli in August 2016, officials said at Mayor Liz Lempert’s press conference. No one from the municipality was required to authorize that the JIF, as it is known, take that step, town administrator Marc D. Dashield said.
“We’re relieved that an agreement could be reached that will save both Colin’s family and the recreation staff the pain of protracted litigation,” Mayor Lempert said. “It was a tragic event. We live in a small town and (there are) a lot people who have had their lives touched by Colin and vice versa. And I think we all see it as a community tragedy.”
She stopped short of issuing an apology to the family, who sued earlier this year claiming negligence by lifeguards on duty Aug. 20, 2016, when Colin Simonelli went to the pool with his father, Anthony. A fellow swimmer, not a lifeguard, noticed Colin Simonelli unresponsive in the main pool. It was later revealed he had drowned in 4 feet of water. He died a short time later.
The suit, filed by the father in Mercer County civil court in May, said Colin Simonelli had struggled to stay afloat in the main pool and went under water “for a prolonged period of time.”
“We’re all sad,” said Council President Jenny Crumiller, who attended the mayor’s press conference.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to do that,” Crumiller said when asked whether the town should apologize to the family. “It’s a legal matter. And our lawyers have given us advice to not comment even.”
Officials would also not comment on whether the municipality took any remedial or disciplinary steps against the pool staff on duty that day or recreation department staff.
“It’s a tragedy. And I think the mayor spelled it out where we are in the case. I don’t know that any other further comment would be best at this time,” Dashield said.
Neither the Simonelli family, which lives in Princeton, nor their lawyer, Neil S. Weiner, returned phone calls seeking comment.