ST. LOUIS – The mother of one of the five children who drowned last month during a church outing to an eastern Missouri state park has sued the church and Joyce Meyer Ministries, claiming negligence and inadequate supervision.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Tuesday in St. Louis Circuit Court, also said the ministries and its St. Louis Dream Center church did not have parents’ permission to take 50 children to Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County on July 9.
The suit by Angela Washington, the mother of 16-year-old DeAndre Sherman, also says church officials failed to exercise care in allowing the children to swim in the Meramec River, then failed to take adequate steps to rescue them.
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Sherman and the other four children died while trying to save a sixth child who was struggling in the river. That child survived.
A statement from Joyce Meyer Ministries says the Dream Center is still coping with the deaths and has established memorial funds in the children’s memory.
“We are committed to doing everything possible to assist the grieving families,” it said.
The statement also said the matter is being reviewed by the St. Louis Dream Center’s insurance company.
St. Louis County police have said their investigation has not turned up anything criminal.
Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus said last month the children had adult supervision, and noted that state law doesn’t require certain adult chaperone-to-child ratios.
However, the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that Missouri’s child fatality review board has requested further investigation of the deaths.
The six youths were part of a group of about 50 youngsters with the Dream Center, an interdenominational church founded by televangelist Joyce Meyer that was celebrating a volunteer appreciation day with a picnic at the state park.
The victims were four boys, Ryan Mason, 14; Damon Johnson, 17; Bryant Barnes, 10; Sherman, 16; and a 13-year-old girl, Dana Johnson. All the children except Sherman were siblings.
Word Gifts Inc. and Dream Building Inc., two groups associated with the ministries, also were named in the lawsuit.