The mother of a 9-year-old boy who died after being swept away by flood waters in 2018 is suing the city of Morehead and the city’s housing authority.
Bryce Kolton Wade Combs died when he was swept into a sewer drain in September 2018 following heavy rains. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Sept. 6 on behalf of the boy’s mother, Vontella Combs. The suit was filed by attorney Mickey T. Webster of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs in Lexington.
A complaint only represents the plaintiff’s side of the case. An answer to the complaint has not been filed yet on behalf of the city or housing authority. Representatives of the city were not available for comment.
Bryce Combs’ body was discovered one week after he went missing.
The lawsuit claims Bryce died due to negligence and an improperly designed storm drain structure.
The Combs family lived in the city’s Rawcel Heights housing development. On Sept. 9, 2018, Bryce was visiting a neighbor friend who also lived in the Rawcel Heights development, according to the lawsuit.
The Housing Authority developed and constructed Rawcel Heights, a residential neighborhood, in or around 1962-63.
The complaint states:
• New roads and storm sewers were constructed as part of Rawcel Heights and the city took maintenance responsibility for those structures after completion.
• A man-made storm drain structure, on property owned by the Authority, ran to a point where the structure dumps into a creek commonly referred to as Town Branch.
• At the beginning point of the storm drain structure there is a concrete interceptor drain channel directing surface storm water flow from Rawcel Heights and a storm sewer drain, pipe and headwall carrying water from Rawcell Street through the storm drain structure.
• At various points along the drain structure, there are numerous pipes directing further water flow into the storm drain structure from Rawcel Heights.
• Also adjacent to pipes is an open concrete interceptor drain or ditch.
• The dumping point for all the water constitutes a low head dam type structure, creating a hydraulic backwash or boil where water dumps into Town Branch.
The lawsuit claims any person who is present in water flowing over the dumping point “can be caught in the hydraulic backwash … and repeatedly pushed or held under water.”
The low head dam structure is often referred to by engineers as a “drowning machine,” the lawsuit says.
The city, the lawsuit claims, should have known that children played in close proximity to the storm drain structure and that children would be attracted to water flowing through the storm drain during rain storms.
The lawsuit states Bryce lost his footing, fell into the flowing water and was swept through the water over the dumping point into Town Branch.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs, and a jury trial.