kyzr willis, city of boston, wrongful death, carson beach, boy drowned boston
A family member carries a poster from the day that Kyzr went missing during a vigil for drowning victim Kyzr Willis at the Curley Community Center in South Boston on Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: Getty Images

The city of Boston has reached a $5 million settlement with the family of a 7-year-old boy who drowned while at a city-run summer camp in July 2016, the family’s lawyer said.

Kyzr Willis, of Dorchester, was found dead in the water by Carson Beach in South Boston on July 26, 2016. He was attending a day camp at Curley Community Center, run by the Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF). 

The family filed a wrongful death suit in September alleging “gross negligence,” saying that staff members failed to supervise the 7-year-old and also failed to provide him with a life jacket as required by state law.

It was well-known by counselors and lifeguards, the lawsuit alleges, that Kyzr could not swim.


“Over the last 18 months, we tried to hold the city accountable and to achieve a sense of social justice. We don't want this to happen again to any other family," said Vikas Dhar, one of the family's lawyers, of Dhar Law. 

The settlement occurred in early April, according to the law firm. 

Kyzr's mother, Melissa Willis, told NBC10 Boston that the pain of losing her son "will never go away." 

“We're just going to take some time and decide how best to honor Kyzr's legacy," she said in a statement shared with Metro. "He was full of life. I hope he is remembered that way."

The wrongful death suit was based on what’s known as Christian’s Law. The law, enacted in 2012, came about after the 2007 drowning death of 4-year-old Christian Frechette.

That law requires that life jackets be available to minors at municipal and recreational camps.

“At all relevant times, Christian’s Law, as well as mature common sense, mandated that the City of Boston, BCYF and CCC ensure that campers like Kyzr wear a life jacket when in or near the ocean,” the lawsuit reads.

Kyzr allegedly asked for a life jacket as well, but was told by an unnamed camp counselor, according to the lawsuit, that “there were only pink ones for girls available, so he was never given a life jacket.”

Following Kyzr’s death, the city has made some safety changes to Boston Centers for Youth and Family drop-in programs, like requiring counselors to do hourly head counts and to improve staff-to-child ratios.

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