Family of boy scalded in Myrtle Beach resort pool in 2020 still fighting for change

Adam Benson and Savannah Denton

4 hours ago

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — A family whose son suffered severe chemical burns while visiting a Myrtle Beach resort in 2020 is working to keep others safe as they continue to battle their own child’s irreparable scars.

In January, the Caribbean Resort paid $26 million in a federal settlement after 3-year-old Ashtyn Douglas was scalded by dangerously high chlorine levels — the result of a years-long cover-up that included falsified reports to state regulators.

“You never realize how dangerous chlorine is. Until you remember that chlorine gas was the original gas used in warfare. It eats away at things that oxidize. And in this case, it ate away at a little boy’s skin,” attorney Kenneth Berger told News13 Wednesday.

Douglas spent time on the resort’s lazy river attraction. As the family prepared to head home, they began to notice rash-like symptoms that only worsened over the next few hours.

After consulting a pediatrician, Douglas was eventually admitted to the University of North Carolina burn center, where he spent a week being diagnosed and treated.

Photo courtesy of Nick Veser, Liberty Link Media Group

Douglas’ parents suspected his burns were caused by the hotel’s untreated water and contacted the state Department of Health and Environmental Control in hopes of getting more information.

A three-year legal battle ensued.

“And the fact is, they would have gotten away with it. If we had not filed this lawsuit, gotten their records and put together the pieces of the puzzle that could have been put together by any member of their leadership,” Berger said.

Caribbean Resorts declined to comment for this article, referring News13 to Brittain Resorts, its operating management company.

DHEC testing of 11 pools at the Caribbean resort found that 10 had to be closed due to dangerous chemical levels. State law requires that these pools be tested for high chlorine levels at least once a day.

Berger said one resort executive used his Fifth Amendment rights more than 20 times during a deposition.

When he was fired, the CEO said the pools were “a real source of revenue,” Berger said.

Berger said the logs were falsified for at least a year before Douglas went into the water, and then it continued for two and a half years after that.

Photo courtesy of Nick Veser, Liberty Link Media Group

“It wasn’t rocket science. They were falsifying records. If anybody cared enough, they would have checked,” Berger said. “I can promise you they were checking their totals, room reservations and all that kind of stuff, but nobody cared enough to check the chemical levels in the pool.”

Berger’s comments echo those made in January by Nicholas Rowley, an attorney with Trial Lawyers for Justice who also worked on the settlement.

“This company and its insurance companies have refused to settle this case year after year and have refused to accept responsibility for what happened to an innocent little boy,” he said.

Berger said he and Douglas’ family want to see stricter fines, penalties and regulations put in place.

“These resorts spend a huge amount of money on marketing and advertising. If they spent even a fraction of that, it would be to make sure the pools are safe. Kids like Ashtyn Douglas would never get hurt,” Berger said. “Ashton’s mother is happy that her child will have financial security as an adult. At the same time, she would have traded all that money, every penny, for the health and well-being of her child.”

Savannah Denton joined News 13 in July 2023 as a reporter and producer. Savannah is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. Follow Savannah on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of his work here.

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Adam Benson joined the News13 digital team in January 2024. He is a veteran South Carolina journalist who previously worked at the Greenwood Index-Journal, the Post & Courier and the Sun News in Myrtle Beach. Adam is a Boston native and a graduate of the University of Utah. Follow Adam on X, formerly Twitter, at @AdamNewshound12. Discover more of his work here.