Four other students were rescued from the turbulent surf during a tragic June 22 field trip to Long Beach that ended with the drowning of 12-year-old Nicole Suriel, an investigation revealed.
The city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation found just three chaperones — teacher Erin Bailey, 26, her boyfriend who could not swim, and a 19-year-old intern — took 24 students from Harlem’s Columbia Secondary School to the beach. Disaster struck within minutes.
Despite the fact that no lifeguards were on duty and posted signs said “No Bathing or Swimming,” one girl told investigators students were instructed to go no deeper than midthigh if they couldn’t swim, and waist deep if they could swim “a little.”
Nicole was thigh-deep when waves pulled her and others into deeper water. Bailey called for a lifeguard, possibly not realizing there were none. Four students were rescued. Suriel was found an hour later.
The SCI’s report also found “poor judgment” in the school’s use of blanket permission given by parents at the beginning of the year for day trips. Some parents didn’t know their children were at the beach.
The school’s assistant principal, Andrew Stillman, was demoted to tenured teacher. Principal Jose Maldonado-Rivera is facing a two-year probation.