Health Dept. shuts down Spa Castle pools after near-fatal drowning incident

By Madina Toure

The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ordered a College Point spa to close all of its pools after a 6-year-old girl nearly drowned in one of the spa’s pools last month.

Health Department investigators identified alterations that were made to two pools at Spa Castle, located at 131-10 11th Ave., without previous approval and inspection by the department.

Immediate closure of the two pools was ordered by the commissioner, but the DOH said alteration may or may not have played a role in the incident.

“The facility’s pools will remain closed until a revised safety plan has been put into place and the Health Department is satisfied that Spa Castle is compliant,” a DOH spokesman said.

Stephanie Chon, Spa Castle’s chief operations officer, said the spa’s pools will be closed until a third party analysis is completed.

“Spa Castle remains in compliance with all applicable laws and we strive to provide exemplary, safe service to our customers,” Chon said.

The establishment is also offering a 50 percent discount for the admission price for access to the rest of the facility’s amenities.

At about 1:45 p.m. Feb. 19, the girl was found unconscious and unresponsive, submerged in a hot tub, and regained consciousness after CPR was administered, police said.

On Monday, the department said it received video surveillance of the incident that clearly shows the facility is out of compliance with its safety plan.

The video showed excessive suction by a water-return feature that was sufficient to draw the victim toward it and keep her underwater.

In the review, the Health Department also found that resuscitation efforts by the staff were inconsistent with what Spa Castle staff told investigators, and that the spa pool was used in a way that is more consistent with a swimming pool than a spa.

The spa’s Manhattan location was closed on Jan. 13, 2015 for operating the facility without a permit, but the business applied for a permit for the Manhattan facility, which was issued on June 11, 2015, the department said.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has called for the spa’s permit and variance to be revoked, said the city seems to only punish the spa when there is a serious violation.

The establishment’s amenities include a bath and locker lounge, saunas, pools, a meditation room, a sleeping room, a sun deck and a fitness center.

“The city shut down their Manhattan facility for a while, now they’re shutting down the pools here. Enough,” Avella said. “When are we going to say to these people, ‘That’s it, you’re done!’”

He also criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for not getting back to him about his request for a task force made up of city agencies that have jurisdiction over such facilities but said the Health Department has been responsive.

The property’s current open violation, one of 10 complaints issued in January 2015, cites an illegal curb in front of the establishment. The site also has one open May 2012 DOB violation for not filing a benchmarking report on energy use.

In December 2014, Forest Hills resident Hock Ma, 80, who was visiting the spa with his family, died after he was discovered unconscious and unresponsive in a jacuzzi. The medical examiner’s office said he died of natural causes.

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

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