A Tuscaloosa County woman has sued the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority on behalf of her daughter after she was allegedly injured at a PARA facility in 2019.

Jennifer Porteous, who lives in Lake View, told The Thread that her daughter Allison was injured while going down a waterslide at the Jerry Tingle Activity Center as a result of the negligence of PARA employees.

On September 14, 2019, the girl went with a friend and the friend's mother to the PARA facility before a sleepover. They were taking turns going down the waterslides, but when Allison went down one final time, she accidentally collided with 3 other girls who were reportedly climbing up from the bottom.

Porteous said she believes this happened was because no lifeguards were present in or near the pool at the time.

"The lifeguards were inside the office the entire time," Porteous said. "She was screaming bloody murder, that she wanted her mother. Her friend's mom tried to get the lifeguards' attention, but they shut the door and turned their back on her."

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Porteous said she rushed to see her daughter, who she described was inconsolable, and wouldn't let anyone look at or touch her eye. She said Allison also immediately started vomiting, which Porteous recognized as a sign of a head injury.

Once they arrived at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Porteous was told her daughter had suffered an orbital floor fracture to her left eye socket. She was told if they did not go forward with emergency surgery, Allison's eye could sustain permanent damage.

After a long night spent in the E.R. and an emergency surgery the following Tuesday, Allison was discharged. Her mother reached out to a representative from PARA to discuss the issue further.

She said the representative she talked to sounded confused. Apparently, the representative was unaware of the incident, because no report had been filed. Porteous said to PARA, Allison's injury did not happen.

"What if it had knocked her out and killed her? What if she had drowned? How could you prevent this from happening to another kid?" Porteous said. "That's what I worry most about... If a lifeguard had been doing their job, this wouldn't have happened in the first place."

Porteous said two days later, the representative called back and said they had reviewed video footage of the accident and apologized that it happened. Porteous told The Thread that she decided to seek an attorney in December 2019 to pursue a lawsuit because of what she perceived as lackluster support from PARA.

"She suffered physically for six months because of the accident," Porteous said. "If we didn't do something about it now, it's going to happen again."

 

The Thread reached out to Tuscaloosa PARA for comment, and a spokesperson said Wednesday she was aware of the incident, but was unable to comment due to ongoing litigation.

Since the accident, Porteous said that her daughter's world has "been turned upside down." Although she's fully recovered, and there's no visible sign of the injury, she says her daughter no longer enjoys the things she used to.

She has not participated in a single beauty pageant since the accident, which she used to do regularly. She also had to take a step back from playing softball because she's terrified of the ball, Porteous said. She has developed a fear of waterparks and slides, and every time she sees a PARA facility, she recalls the incident.

"It's constantly on her mind," Porteous said. "I just hope this can bring about some change. I don't want this to happen to anybody else's kid."

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday, a few months before the statute of limitations would have prevented Porteous from doing so, and seeks monetary compensation for the suffering of her family.

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