ATLANTA (AP) — A camp director has been indicted on an involuntary manslaughter charge after a 5-year-old boy drowned last summer while attending summer camp near Atlanta.
Benjamin "Kamau" Hosch III died July 21 after he was found unresponsive in the water at Cochran Mill Nature Center southwest of Atlanta while attending Camp Cricket.
Fulton County court records show camp director Terri Clark faces a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct and a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, Clark could face between one to 10 years in prison.
Nature center executive director Maribeth Wansley faces a misdemeanor charge of operating an early childhood learning center without a license. That carries a fine of $50 to $200 and up to a year in prison for each day of operation without a license.
Philip Holloway, a lawyer for Clark, said his client plans to plead not guilty and will mount a vigorous defense.
"We extend our deepest condolences to the Hosch family for their loss," he said in an email. "As was made clear to law enforcement when this happened, this was a tragic accident and not a crime."
Wansley couldn't immediately be reached and no lawyer was listed in court records.
Kamau was one of 13 campers in a group that was supervised on July 21 by Clark and two counselors. The group, which also included the mother of one of the children, took a short hike to eat lunch near a waterfall, and the children were allowed to play in the creek below the waterfall, according to staff statements included in a report by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.
When they were getting ready to pack up to leave, one of the counselors noticed Kamau was missing and they began to search for him, the statements said. Eventually, Wansley's husband, who was a volunteer at the campsite and had come to help search, found the boy submerged under water and began to do CPR until emergency personnel arrived.
The boy's mother, Ayisat Idris-Hosch, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that she sees the indictment as the first step toward justice for her son. She and her husband chose the camp in part because she thought the ratio of adults to children would mean adequate supervision, she said.
"Now people get it. This wasn't just an accident," Idris-Hosch said, adding that she believes the camp's staff was negligent. "I want them to understand we are not going to give up until justice is done."
Chris Stewart, an attorney for the family, said he's glad the grand jury found criminal charges appropriate.
"In this situation, an apology wasn't enough," he said.
The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning found that Camp Cricket was unlicensed and unregistered and issued a cease and desist order for the camp three days after the boy's death. Three days later the agency confirmed that the camp was no longer operating, according to a statement issued at the time.