instructor also was not certified as a swim teacher and was in the
bleachers — not in the pool where he should have been — when students in
the remedial swimming class ran to tell him that 14-year-old KeAir
Swift was in trouble, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said. .
said his office on Monday authorized a charge of involuntary
manslaughter against Johnathan Lamonte Sails, 24, of Detroit. The charge
carries a potential 15-year prison sentence and/or $7,500 fine for a
Sails is expected to turn himself in Wednesday at 38th
District Court in Eastpointe for arraignment, Eastpointe Police Lt.
Neil Childs said.
According to Smith, Sails initially “blew off”
the concerns of students, assuming that KeAir was just messing around,
before he went down to check. It was only when more students came to him
that the instructor left the bleachers.
By that time, KeAir was
already at the bottom of the pool, Smith said. But instead of taking
action, the instructor left to get changed, Smith said.
school official, hearing the commotion, ran to the pool and jumped into
the water in his suit to pull KeAir out. But by that time, it was too
late, Smith said.
“If (Sails) had immediately taken action,
something might have been different,” Smith said. “This needless tragedy
could have easily been avoided.”
Neither KeAir’s mother nor Sails could be reached for comment today. .
are beginning swimmers, and we have a guy in there who has no
certification,” Smith said of Sails. “This isn’t a cooking class where
the guy lied about his credentials … it’s life and death where kids
don’t know how to swim.”
Smith, who praised the work of police on
the case, said authorities believe East Detroit Public Schools shares
some blame, but that authorities would not be able to prove gross
negligence on the district’s part.
In a statement this afternoon,
the school district said it received word earlier that day that the
prosecutor was going to charge Sails, a contracted substitute teacher.
stated that Sails is an employee of an outside contractor —
Professional Educational Services Group (PESG) — which has provided
substitute teachers for the district and many other area school
districts over the past several years.
Lelekatch told the Free Press that Sails, who once also served as a
track coach, has not been working in the district since the incident
Nov. 8. She did not know how long he had been with the district.
Flietstra, general counsel of PESG, said it is corporate policy not to
discuss employment matters in the media. However, it did release a
statement today: “We continue to keep the family of KeAir Swift and the
East Detroit Public Schools community in our thoughts and prayers.”
said in a statement Tuesday. “When tragedies such as this happen, our
focus remains on the student, his peers and the family. In his short
time with the district, the student involved earned the respect and
admiration of his peers and faculty. He will be missed in our
Lelekatch said the district has been cooperating with
authorities as they investigated the death, but said it would be
“inappropriate for us to speculate about the charges, and we trust that
the justice system will appropriately address the matter.”
said the school staffer who dove into the pool to try to save KeAir was a
physical education teacher who was acting as an assistant principal
Smith noted that police were able to quickly find out
that Sails was not certified as swimming instructor. The prosecutor said
Sails had misrepresented his certification to the district.
said she could not speak to those comments or discuss any changes the
district may have made since the incident. However, she said, the pool
has not reopened and no decision has not been made on when it will
KeAir was a Detroit resident who enrolled at East Detroit
this school year as part of the schools-of-choice program, officials
have said. He was in the last day of a three-week swim class that was
part of the school’s physical education program when the incident