LOWELL — The family of a teenager who drowned Tuesday in his high school pool called on authorities Thursday to disclose the circumstances of the youth’s death and criticized the school.
“We want answers,” said Michael Soum, the uncle of Danny Svay, who was pulled from the bottom of the pool at Greater Lowell Technical High School. “We know this could have been prevented.”
Investigators say Svay’s death appears to have been accidental, but have provided few details. An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.
Grief-stricken about their loss, family members said Thursday they are desperate to know what happened to the 15-year-old and whether his death could have been avoided.
“We want to have closure,” said Rotha Neang, Soum’s sister.
Svay was in the pool for gym class Tuesday morning, Soum said. Authorities would not say whether Svay was alone when he drowned, but Soum said he was told that the emergency call was made before class was scheduled to let out just before noon.
“With staff members and a pool full of kids, how did no one see?” Soum asked.
Svay was not a strong swimmer, but was able to keep his head above water and paddle to the side of the pool, Soum said. Svay disliked swimming and was frightened of the water and would not have lingered in the pool after class or gone there on his own, his family said.
“He would not be in the water by himself,” Neang said.
Soum, 26, said his nephew’s friends had told him Svay was not feeling well before gym class and had gone to the nurse. But a short time later, Svay went to class, Soum said.
A spokesman for the school district referred questions about the drowning to the district attorney’s office.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office would not say who discovered Svay under the water or provide any other details. Soum said authorities have told him there is video footage of the pool.
Police provided no additional details Thursday about the drowning. They previously said Svay was found unresponsive and was given CPR at the scene. He was taken to Lowell General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Michael McGovern, a spokesman for the Tyngsborough school, said grief counselors were on hand, and the pool would be closed for the remainder of the school year.
Svay was a smart, mature teenager, his family said. He studied hard and hoped to attend the University of Massachusetts to study engineering, as Soum had done.
“He wanted to follow in my footsteps,” said Soum, who said he played a fatherly role in Svay’s life. “He knew exactly what he wanted in life.”
Born and raised in Lowell, Svay lived with his grandmother, who had custody of him. Soum said. He loved martial arts and Bruce Lee movies and would spend hours playing music on his keyboard.
“A really sweet kid, always with a smile,” Neang said. “He was full of life and wise beyond his years.”
Soum said he hopes authorities do not simply dismiss Svay’s death as a tragic accident, saying there has to be more to the story.
“I’m going to fight for answers,” he said. “I want justice for my nephew.”