TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have voted to approve $33,000 for the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit filed after a man died at a small lake northwest of Hays.
Tony Bieker, 65, and his wife were staying at Antelope Lake in July 2011, according to the Topeka-Capital Journal. Authorities said Tony’s boat became stuck at least 50 yards from shore. He was unable to dislodge the boat and decided to wait for daylight to flag down help.
A Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism officer arrived during the night and ordered Bieker to get his boat off the water. Bieker unsuccessfully tried get the boat free and began swimming to shore, but only made it halfway before going under. Bieker was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The officer did not call for backup before Bieker went underwater, prevented Bieker’s wife from going into the water and failed three times to successfully throw a safety device to Bieker. The officer then waded out to the water when the man’s left shoulder and top of his head were above water. He pulled him to the shore and started emergency treatment.
Bieker’s wife filed a lawsuit against the state and the officer. The State Finance Council voted to approve the $33,000. The plaintiff sough a judgment in excess of $75,000.
Legal documents filed in Graham County District Court said the state agency wanted to try and dismiss the suit because “law enforcement officials owe no duty of ordinary care to rescue members of the general public from their self-created emergencies.”
“Any drowning death is a tragedy,” Kansas assistant attorney general Steve Fabert said. “Kansas law does not make a state agency liable for wrongful death merely because an employee is present when the tragedy occurs.”
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