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YMCA Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Fatal Rock-Climbing Accident

A lawsuit has been filed against a Pittsburgh YMCA, after a 15-year-old boy died after falling during a rock climbing activity, alleging the association recklessly appointed inexperienced rock climbing staff to manage the event.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by the family of Nathan Kanczes in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County, indicating the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Greater Pittsburgh failed to utilize proper safety equipment during a rock climbing activity, and did not select qualified counselors, resulting in the tragic wrongful death of the teen.

On July 15, Kanczes was attending a teen wilderness camp through the YMCA Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer in Beaver County. The group of teens was being led by YMCA appointed counselors on a hike and rock climbing expedition near the YMCA Deer Valley Camp in Fort Hill in Somerset County.

According to the lawsuit, during the rock climbing expedition, Nathan Kanczes fell approximately 50 feet, after he and other campers began scaling a rock formation in the state park. As a result of the rock climbing accident, Kanczes suffered critical injuries and was air lifted to Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center, where he died later that day.

His mother, Diane Kanczes, alleges that YMCA failed to utilize and properly set up the proper equipment in a safe manner for the rock climbing and rappelling activities. The lawsuit alleges the safety gear used during the rock climbing event was not equipped with automatic braking systems which were readily available at the camp.

The complaint further claims the YMCA falsely advertised and assured parents that children participating in the camp would be cared for by dedicated and professionally trained staff to run rock climbing activities. Kanczes claimed the association failed to properly train and appoint qualified counselors to be in charge of inherently dangerous activities and failed to properly supervise the activities as they were taking place.

YMCA lawsuits have been filed in the past over rock climbing accidents, involving allegations that faulty equipment or improper supervision led to injuries. In July 2015, the parents of a boy in Fort Lauderdale sued the Weston YMCA after the child was seriously injured after falling from an indoor rock climbing wall.

The lawsuit alleged the boy was able to climb to the top of the rock climbing wall but employees failed to properly secure the rope and safety harness. As the child began to rappel down the 30 foot drop he began to fall with nothing to stop or slow his fall. The family sued the YMAC demanding in excess of $15,000 for the injuries sustained to the child.

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