KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
September 5, 2020
By Jennifer Miko
A parents’ nightmare has become a reality for David and Afsoon Harrison of Cross Creek Ranch. On July 23, their special needs son Lucas was found at the bottom of a swimming pool at a camp established for people with disabilities.
This summer, Lucas Harrison attended Camp Journey in Bellville, TX. His parents said he enjoyed three days there before the tragedy on July 23, 2020. Lucas was in the camp pool with other campers and camp counselors. The 14-year-old was required to wear a life vest at all times while near or in the water.
Lucas’s father, David Harrison, says an 11-year-old autistic boy pointed out that Lucas was “sleeping at the bottom of the pool.” He wasn’t wearing a life vest.
Devastating Phone Call
David says he received a call from a camp representative telling him Lucas was found at the bottom of the pool, and he wasn’t breathing.
Lucas’s mother, Afsoon Harrison, says the phone call started the worst day of their life.
Lucas was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, where doctors were able to detect a heartbeat. David and Afsoon clung to the hope that a miracle would save their son, but Lucas passed away a little while later.
Parents Want Answers
Since the incident, the Harrisons have not heard from anyone at Camp Journey, and they want answers.
On August 14, David consulted with Houston attorney, Randy Sorrels of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, who has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Harris County, against Everyday Opportunities LLC d/b/a Camp Journey, Camp Journey LLC, and Camp Journey Bellville LLC.
A statement from the attorney for the family says, “The lawsuit alleges that Camp Journey was negligent in its failure to exercise safety precautions, provide a safe environment at the pool, and properly supervise, train, and hire a sufficient number of counselors and lifeguards to monitor the pool where the drowning occurred.”
Camp Journey Finds Legal Representation
Katy Magazine reached out to Camp Journey to comment on the incident from July 23, 2020, and was directed to contact Kerr Wilson, P.C., Attorneys at Law, in Houston.
“Everybody at Camp Journey is sorry that the tragedy even occurred, and their thoughts are with the family,” says Tom Kerr, counsel for Camp Journey. “Because litigation has been filed, they have been advised not to talk to the Harrisons or the press.”
Suzette Steward Coates, Founder and Executive Director for Camp Journey and Everyday Opportunities, started Camp Journey in 2008 when she realized the need for summer programs in the Katy area. Camp Journey was established to provide summer programs for people of all ages and disabilities, including overnight and day camps. They also offer vacation camps throughout the year and during winter and spring breaks.
On the camp's website, Coates is quoted as saying, “My favorite part of camp is when people start to see my campers as individuals with a name, a face and most of all a personality that is irresistible. Camp Journey is my family and has been a dream come true.”
Family's Attorney Hopes Lawsuit Will Bring Awareness
Sorrels, the Harrisons’ attorney, claims Lucas’s tragic death at Camp Journey was completely avoidable.
“The parents of this young man have suffered a devastating loss and hope this lawsuit will cause camps across our community to assure there are an adequate number of counselors and lifeguards who have been properly trained," says Sorrels.
Remembering Their Friend
Clayton Mace was 13 when he met Lucas. This summer, the Tompkins High School senior served as a pallbearer for the boy he called his adopted "little brother.”
“Lucas was pure, intelligent, and joyful,” says Clayton Mace. “We have so many fun memories together. Anytime we played ‘Hey There Delilah’ in the car he would sing every single lyric with us.”
(Pictured left to right: Rachel Santos, Nick and Lucas Harrison, Clayton Mace, and Sophie Wheeless)
Clayton fondly recalls how Lucas would always talk about gymnastics and follow him and his older brother Nick outside to “just hang with the boys.”
"Anytime Lucas met a stranger, they would become his friend," says Clayton.
So when Clayton’s younger sister Paige met Lucas, they became instant friends too. (Pictured left to right: Paige Mace and Lucas Harrison)
"Lucas was loving, optimistic, and playful," says Paige Mace. "He always knew how to put a smile on your face.”
The Seven Lakes Junior High eighth grader remembers having fun singing “Despacito” and dancing around the living room with Lucas, and having a blast at the Houston Rodeo.
“We always had fun no matter what we were doing,” says Paige. “Time with Lucas was the best times ever!"
“Lucas lived love and joy every single day,” says Clayton. “I hope we can all ‘live like Lucas.’”
Celebrating Lucas’ Life
Anyone who met Lucas was touched by his sweet spirit and bright eyes. He loved to dance and sing, and cheer for his older brother Nick, a senior at Tompkins High School, when he performed on stage.
Pictured left to right: Nick and Lucas Harrison
Lucas also loved to make people smile. His parents say he was the perfect son.
“He was full of so much love, laughter, and joy. He was everyone’s friend.”
David and Afsoon continue to keep Lucas’s memory alive and have created “Live Like Lucas” wrist bands. They also hope to start a foundation in his honor.
“Because of his gentle demeanor and beautiful heart, everyone became better by knowing him,” say Lucas's parents. “He made a beautiful and lasting impression on everyone he met. His short time on this Earth taught us how to live and how to love.”