Teacher arraigned in East Detroit High School pool drowning death of 14-year-old KeAir Smith

EASTPOINTE, Mich. (WXYZ) - Johnathan Sails, 24, was arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old KeAir Swift, who drowned during a swimming class last November.

Bond was set at $25,000 personal.  Sails will appear in court again on March 19.

Swift was a student at East Detroit High School. According to Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, Sails is responsible for his death.

Smith told 7 Action News the teacher displayed gross negligence in supervising the remedial swimming class. "The defendant misrepresented that he was certified through the Red Cross as a lifeguard, which is what you need pursuant to state regulations to teach a swimming class," said Smith.

To make matters worse, according to the prosecutor, the instructor was in the bleachers with other students when things went bad and failed to react appropriately to a life-threatening situation.

"He was not in swimming attire," said Smith, a requirement of state regulations. "When he went down to the pool and saw KeAir at the bottom of the pool, he did not jump in, he went to the locker room to change into swimming attire," Smith  said.

Smith says the vice principal of the high school eventually dove into the pool to bring KeAir out of the water but by then, it was too late for the youngster.

If convicted, involuntary manslaughter carries the potential of a 15-year sentence and/or $7,500 fine.

"It's terrible and they really need to pay for it," said LaKisha Swift, the mother of the 14-year old. "They really need to pay for it. They need to suffer like I'm suffering. And my son's lost his life. He had a great life.  He was a happy child," Swift said.

In a statement, East Detroit Public Schools said the teacher being charged is an employee of an outside contractor that has provided substitute teachers for the district for several years. It did not name the company.

Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch said the district remains saddened by Swift's death. "When tragedies such as this happen, our focus remains on the student, his peers and the family, " said Lelekatch.


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