Nicole Suriel's Family to Sue City for $20M Over Her Drowning

By Ben Fractenberg on September 17, 2010 2:07pm 

Nicole Suriel, who drowned on a school field trip, at home in her parents' Harlem apartment.
Nicole Suriel, who drowned on a school field trip, at home in her parents' Harlem apartment.
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DNAinfo/Gabriela Resto-Montero

By Ben Fractenberg

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM — The family of Harlem sixth grader Nicole Suriel, who drowned during a poorly supervised class trip to Long Beach, is taking steps toward suing the city for $20 million.

Suriel's parents, Juan and Marisol Suriel, filed a notice of claim this week that they will take legal action against the city, according to the family’s lawyer, Oliver Storch.

"This fall was a very painful reminder that their daughter wasn’t with them," said Storch, referring to the start of the new school year. "They are just interested in making sure this never happens again."

The notice of claim filing was first reported in the Daily News.

Suriel drowned on June 22 during a class trip to Long Beach, Long Island with 23 other classmates from Columbia Secondary School.

The trip was only supervised by three adults, and there were no lifeguards on duty at the beach. Nevertheless, teacher Erin Bailey, 26, allegedly told students it was okay to go into the water, adding that those who couldn't swim should only go in up to their waist, according to reports.

A strong current pulled several of the students out. Bailey and 19-year-old teaching intern Victoria Wong allegedly tried to rescue the students along with another unidentified beachgoer.

They reportedly saved at least five children but were unable to reach Suriel, whose body was found a little over an hour later.

Bailey was fired after the incident after a Department of Education probe found that she let children go into the water who couldn't swim. The investigation also found that parents never signed permission slips for the trip.

Storch said that if proper procedure regarding field trips had been followed the children never would have been allowed in the water since no lifeguards were on duty.

"The family wants to make sure the existing rules are followed," he added.

The city’s law department also confirmed that they received the notice.

"This is a very tragic case," said New York City Law Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Thomas.

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