Jury awards family $2.75 million for drowning at Tucson hotel

Suit claimed drastic slope to deep end was one of many safety faults

Jury awards $2.75 million for drowning at hotel in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A jury has awarded millions in connection with a drowning that happened at a hotel pool in Tucson more than two years ago.

In March 2017, Mei Hu, a mother of two from China, drowned within minutes of getting into the pool at the DoubleTree at Reid Park hotel.

Michael Crawford, the attorney for Mei Hu’s widow, Nia Peng Bi, and family members, said Mei Hu decided to go for a swim the first night at the hotel.

“It’s the most dangerous thing at a hotel. There’s nothing more dangerous at a hotel for your guests than the swimming pool," said Crawford.

According to witness accounts, Mei Hu walked to the steps at the shallow end of the pool and entered into the water. About six to eight minutes later, another person at the pool saw her body at the bottom of the deep end.

After being notified of his wife’s death, Nia Peng Bi flew to Tucson and stayed at the same hotel.

“I couldn’t believe it and I was not able to accept what was told to me," said Bi through a translator to KOLD News 13. "It was devastating for me.”

“When we started looking at the case we were like ‘well what, what happened?’ Because we know she went into the shallow end, six to eight minutes later she is at the bottom of the pool," Crawford said.

In a lawsuit filed against the owners of the DoubleTree at the time of the drowning, WBCMT, attorneys argued it was the dangerous design of the hotel pool that led to Mei Hu’s death.

Diagram of the pool at the DoubleTree Hotel, provided by attorney Michael Crawford.
Diagram of the pool at the DoubleTree Hotel, provided by attorney Michael Crawford. (Source: Attorney)

The suit claimed the drastic slope to the deep end, which should be a transitional slop, was one of many safety faults that led to the drowning.

“Everything about this pool that could be wrong was wrong," said Crawford.

He added a missing safety rope, required for hotel pools in Arizona, bad lighting and murky water were also factors in Mei Hu’s death.

Photo of the Doubletree pool provided by attorney Michael Crawford.
Photo of the Doubletree pool provided by attorney Michael Crawford. (Source: Attorney)

“You can know that you don’t have to comply with the code, but if you know your pool is dangerous, you gotta do something,” said Crawford. “You gotta fix it or you gotta warn somebody so this doesn’t happen again. This was the third drowning at this pool. That doesn’t happen.”

A Tucson jury found Mei Hu the hotel’s previous owner shared fault 50-50 in her death. The jury awarded $5.5 million in damages.

“Now all I have in my heart is grateful. I’m really grateful for all the people who helped me," Bi said through a translator. “I felt like I had the answer now, I have the answer.... now I can somewhat let it go, a little bit.”

Nor Hotel Properties, LLC acquired the hotel in December of 2017. KOLD News 13 reached out to the company for a statement after learning adjustments were made to the pool.

A spokesperson released this statement:

“When the hotel’s current ownership learned of what had happened, they immediately invested in this improvement prior to any other renovations. This included working with consultants, city officials to ensure local ordinances and requirements, which primarily corrected the depth of the pool and lighting.”

Crawford and Mei Hu’s family said they are happy to see that area has been made safer so another family doesn’t have to go through a tragedy.

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