Local

Report: Township Not To Blame For Drowning At Party

Carlos Salgado

Calumet Township Trustee Carlos Salgado, 26, was found dead in a Blue Island public pool. (CBS)

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BLUE ISLAND, Ill. (STMW) – An investigation into the after-hours pool party last June at which Calumet Township Trustee Carlos Salgado died concurred with police findings that it was accidental drowning and determined the township was not at fault.

But the report on the investigation, paid for by the township, did chide employees who were skinny-dipping for using “bad judgment.”

Salgado, 26, was found at the bottom of a Blue Island Park District pool on June 26, the morning after a late-night party for select public officials and their guests that included booze, topless women and sex in the bathhouse.

Calumet Township paid former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine’s firm — Meckler, Bulger, Tilson, Marick & Pearson — up to $225 per hour to conduct the investigation. The report was presented to the township last week and obtained Wednesday by the SouthtownStar.

The investigation found the only evidence of misconduct by township employees or officials was on the part of two off-duty female employees. “One swam partially clothed, and one swam unclothed. Those actions, involved, at the minimum, bad judgment,” the report said.

Both women have since resigned.

The investigation focused on the actions of township employees and officials. The park district did not allow employees to be interviewed for the report due to pending litigation. Devine said that hampered parts of the investigation.

Salgado’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Park District Board President Fred Bilotto, who is also township clerk, and others. Bilotto allowed officials to enter the pool after the Blue Island Fest, records show.

Alcohol consumption was not permitted in Memorial Park after midnight on any night of the festival, but there was drinking at the pool afterward.

Salgado went to the festival the night of June 25, and witnesses said he did not appear intoxicated before the festival closed. Nor did he appear intoxicated at the pool party, they said.

He apparently did “have a few beers,” Devine said.

“Many of the witnesses we interviewed described the event as low-key and not ‘a wild party’ as reported by some of the media,” the report said.

Salgado was among 15 to 20 people who went swimming that night. A water basketball game was played in about 4.5 feet of water, the report said, and none of the players interviewed said Salgado appeared intoxicated during the game. In addition, none was aware he could not swim.

The game ended about 1 a.m., and the party went on until about 2:30 a.m. when a security officer locked the pool gate.

There were no indications that Salgado left the party and then returned later and drowned. No witnesses reported seeing him, the report said. Police found his clothing, shoes, identification and wallet on a bench at the pool the next morning.

Bilotto, in Devine’s report, said he did not observe anything unusual as the party ended and did not see Salgado in the last group leaving the pool.

The drowning “was a tragic death that cut short a promising life,” the report said.

The report concluded that “questions remain how Mr. Salgado ended up drowning in the diving well of the pool without being observed by anyone.” It found that no acts or omissions by township employees or officials were related to his death, but adds “human memory is fallible, even with the best of intentions.”

Devine said Wednesday that “nobody that evening, after the swimming party broke up, saw Carlos leave and come back or saw him struggling (in the water) or saw him alone. There’s a gap there, and it’s too bad for the family.”

The pool’s half-circle design, he said, “makes it possible for someone near the slide to slip into the deep area.

“It could be a bunch of little things that contributed to one big tragic thing,” Devine said.

The report urges the township to follow the park district’s lead and not allow employees to continue parties at festival sites after hours.

“If you’re going to go out and relax, leave the site and don’t do anything on public property,” Devine said.

The final cost of the investigation was not yet available, he said.

Township supervisor Rose Rita, through a secretary, declined to comment on the report.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)