Family of drowned tot sues over 2007 death

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BUTTE — The Evergreen Water and Sewer District and others are being sued in connection with the death of a 3-year-old boy who drowned after falling into an Evergreen septic tank in 2007.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Butte District Court, stems from the Jan. 24, 2007, death of Loic Rogers, who drowned in a septic tank on property off of Maple Drive in Evergreen.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estate of Loic Rogers and trustees for the child’s parents, Ariel James and Mark Rogers.

The lawsuit names Evergreen Water and Sewer District, JB Estates, Robert Rinke, John Coziahr, Rinke’s Red Hawk Ranch and Carver Engineering as defendants.

Kalispell lawyer Lee Henning, representing the plaintiffs, is alleging the district, land developers and engineering company were negligent in placing the septic system on the property.

The lawsuit claims the septic tank access did not have a “kid-catcher” safety device installed that would have prevented Loic Rogers from falling in.

The boy was reported missing on the evening of Jan. 24. Mark Rogers told police he took Loic to his car outside Tommie Cates’ home on Maple Drive, told the boy to get in and then returned to the house for Loic’s sister.

When the father returned to the car, the child was missing.

That set off a massive search for the boy. More than 200 volunteers turned out Jan. 25 to look for the toddler, and nearly 100 showed up the following day.

Members of many national public safety agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, A Child is Missing, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Immigration Customs Enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol, joined the search.

A host of Flathead Valley fire departments, rescue units and law enforcement agencies also helped search.

After two days of searching, the boy’s body was found in a septic tank less than 10 feet from the house where he was last seen. Authorities ruled the toddler’s death an accident.

The lawsuit alleges the designers of the septic system were negligent by placing the access close to a driveway. The plaintiffs claim the cover and riser for the septic tank were damaged when a vehicle slid into it in December 2006.

The lawsuit demands a jury trial and undisclosed monetary damages for pain and suffering, funeral expenses, lost income and other damages. The case is set to be heard by Butte District Judge Kurt Krueger.

Cates, owner of the Evergreen home and septic tank where Loic drowned, later pleaded no contest to one count of misdemeanor negligent endangerment for her role in the death.

In November 2007, Cates was sentenced to a one-year deferred jail term and fined $500.

Flathead County prosecutors said Cates had made an attempt to fix the broken septic-tank lid, but it apparently was not secured the night of the incident. Loic slipped in, and the lid apparently fell back into place over the top of the riser.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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