AUSTIN, Texas — House Bill 1676, otherwise known as Cati's Act, advanced in the Texas House Friday and is now its way to the Senate.
The bill, filed by State Rep. Vicki Goodwin of Austin, would require child care providers to identify children who cannot swim and make sure they are provided life jackets before going near bodies of water. If the body is not owned by the camp or child care organization, they must provide that owner with a list of kids they have identified as non-swimmers.
Six-year-old Cati DelaPeña died in the summer of 2019 after drowning at a Cedar Park pool, which her summer camp was visiting on a field trip.
"The staff knew that, you know, Cati looked like a normal little girl, she acted like a normal little girl, but she did have Down syndrome," her father, John DelaPeña, told KVUE earlier this year. "We asked about, you know, what kind of activities they did. They said, 'We do take pool trips twice a week.' We said, 'You know, Cati has Down syndrome, so she's got lower muscle tone, she can't swim.'"
He said he told the camp that if Cati went into the pool, she would need to be wearing a life jacket. Her family said that did not happen.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission assessment form from the incident, the camp was licensed for 110 campers. Yet the day Cati was found at the bottom of the pool, there were actually 112.
Cedar Park police investigated the incident. A spokesperson said the case was presented to a grand jury, which indicted Seth Owen Carthel for criminally negligent homicide. Carthel was the director of the camp, High Hopes Summer Camp, when Cati died. The family also filed a lawsuit against the camp and the City of Cedar Park claiming negligence.
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