Man, 80, dies in Spa Castle jacuzzi

By Madina Toure

An elderly man found unconscious in a jacuzzi at a College Point spa died Sunday, the NYPD said.

Hock Ma, 80, of 68-09 Clyde Street in Forest Hills, was found unconscious and unresponsive in a jacuzzi at the Spa Castle on 131-10 11th Ave. in College Point, according to a police spokeswoman. Ma was visiting Spa Castle with his family. He was taken to Flushing Hospital in critical condition where he was pronounced dead.

Stephanie Chon, a spokeswoman for Spa Castle, said the company puts a high priority on safety and followed standard protocol in dealing with the incident.

“CPR was initiated by a certified manager and the patron was taken by ambulance to a local hospital,” Chon said in a statement. “Safety precautions are clearly posted in our facilities and the staff in the area is CPR certified. Our thoughts are with the family at this time.”

Bathing establishments are required to have someone on staff with CPR certification and spa pools have to be monitored regularly by an aquatic supervisor, a city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman said in an email.

The DOH is currently conducting an investigation, which includes interviews, an extensive review of Spa Castle’s safety plan as well as policies and procedures followed by the personnel, the spokesman said.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has been calling on the city Board of Standards and Appeals to revoke the spa’s variance for years, said he would revive calls to reopen the debate on the variance. He said a number of violations exist at the spa, including padlocked fire exits, equipment and supplies stored in the spa’s parking lot as well as elevators and stairwells.

Initial opposition to the spa was due to its proximity to residential homes, the height of the building, hours of operation and traffic problems, Avella said.

“They seem to constantly flout the law,” he said. “With the fact that the media has discovered numerous health violations and safety violations, this is the last straw that has broken the camel’s back.”

The facility has one active city Department of Buildings violation issued May 3, 2012 for failure to file a benchmarking report of energy use, according to DOB data for the facility.

The facility has also received seven complaints between 2008 and 2012, six of which have been resolved and one classified.

The complaints included cracks along the swimming pool, no valid occupancy certificate, an inoperative elevator, cracks on the wall of a spa structure, substandard egress options, stairwells that appeared to be partially constructed, 12 different pools with steps to get to pools but no handicap access and one very small elevator and the facility not having ramps for handicapped individuals.

The city Department of Consumer Affairs, which does not license spas, is limited only to enforcement of the consumer protection law at such businesses. This includes signage for price lists, refund policies, receipts and gender pricing, a DCA spokeswoman said in an email.

The DCA inspected Spa Castle this year and issued a violation for missing information on its price list, which they settled for $375, the spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour‌e@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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