The mother of a 17-year-old boy who drowned on a youth-group trip to Lavon Lake is suing church officials and a boat rental service, claiming that their negligence led to her son’s death.
Collin County firefighters fished DeMarcus White out of the lake on June 5, 2017, the day after he jumped off the second story of a party barge and never resurfaced. White wasn’t wearing a life jacket, Texas Game Wardens spokesman Tony Norton said.
His mother filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday that seeks more than $1 million from Fellowship Bible Church of Dallas, Lavon Water Sports for failing to hire a lifeguard, require flotation devices or search the water for DeMarcus when they determined he was missing.
Angela White raised DeMarcus in Louisiana, but he was visiting the Dallas area with a family friend when he attended the church-sponsored trip to the lake, White’s attorney Benton Ross said. It’s unclear whether church officials knew that the 17-year-old didn’t know how to swim.
At the lake, Fellowship staff rented a boat from Lavon Water Sports, which provided a captain to take the group out on a private portion of the lake that doesn’t require life vests.
There, a group leader allowed children to jump into the water one by one, the lawsuit says. But when DeMarcus jumped in and didn’t resurface, she allowed another child to jump in after him without ensuring he’d gotten out safely, according to the lawsuit.
Adults on the boat did a head count and called first responders, but nobody searched the water for DeMarcus in the hour it took the Wylie Fire Department to reach the lake, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit claims that by failing to adequately supervise the children and provide for their safety, the defendants brought about DeMarcus’ death.
Neither Fellowship Bible Church Dallas nor Lavon Water Sports responded to requests for comment. Two church leaders and the boat’s captain were named individually in the lawsuit, as was AJ Water Sports LLC, the boat rental company’s registered name.
White is seeking compensation for actual monetary damages, loss of companionship, mental anguish and her son’s physical pain and mental anguish.
“As far as damages go, it’s hard to put dollar values on a deceased 17-year-old whose life was in front of him,” Ross said. “It’s hard to put values on how his mom feels.”