Fort Worth

Swim coach guilty in Southlake teen’s drowning, will get three years probation

Southlake mother speaks about probation for swim coach convicted of neglect

A mother tells a swimming coach convicted of neglect that she has taken all of the memories that she could have cherished. The coach, Tracey Anne Boyd, was sentenced to three years probation and can never coach swimming again
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A mother tells a swimming coach convicted of neglect that she has taken all of the memories that she could have cherished. The coach, Tracey Anne Boyd, was sentenced to three years probation and can never coach swimming again

A jury has found the swim coach in a Southlake teen’s drowning in 2016 guilty and sentenced her to three years probation in accordance with an agreement between her attorneys and prosecutors.

“The family never wanted any jail time for the defendant,” said David Alex, Tarrant County prosecutor.

Tracey Anne Boyd, 51, was charged with abandonment and endangering of a child by criminal negligence in a direct indictment on June 29. She faced up to two years in jail upon conviction.

The conviction means that Boyd cannot be certified as a swimming coach, Alex said.

Boyd, who now lives elsewhere, has asked that her probation be transferred out-of-state.

The indictment alleged that Boyd failed to “watch or observe Elise Cerami while [Cerami] was swimming” and failed to ensure that she was being supervised by someone else.

Cerami, 13, drowned June 20, 2016, during a routine swim practice at the Carroll Aquatic’s Center in Southlake surrounded by about 30 teammates and two coaches.

The jury in the trial reached its verdict Friday afternoon after deliberating most of the day.

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Lori Cerami, (second from left) the mother of teen who drowned at swim practice, is outside courtroom Friday with supporters holding pictures of her daughter. The teen’s assistant swim coach got probation on a neglect conviction Mitch Mitchell mitchmitchell@star-telegram.com

USA Swimming, the national governing body for swimming in the United States, is very clear about its directives, Lori Cerami, Elise Cerami’s mother, said in her victim’s impact statement.

For more than nine minutes, Boyd chose to position herself nearly 180 feet from Elise Cerami. Boyd had lifeguard training and the skills to save the teen had she been paying close attention, Cerami said. Her daughter was healthy and had she been pulled from the water in two minutes or less, there is an 80 percent chance she would have survived.

“You left Elise underwater for six minutes until two girls pulled her to safety,” Lori Cerami said. “We watched in horror as members of the medical community worked on her for hours. We lost our past, we lost our present and we cannot recognize our future. I lost my mini-me and my amazing daughter who made me a better mother. Your negligence took every memory that we might have cherished.”

Brett Robinson, Southlake Department of Public Safety school resource officer, testified Tuesday that video footage of Boyd was not seen on footage captured by pool cameras between 6:33 a.m. and 6:42 a.m. on the day Cerami died.

However, defense attorneys pointed out that the cameras had blind spots and did not cover the entire pool and deck area. Also, the cameras were motion activated and did not record when objects in their field were still, Robinson said.

“You can’t see where Tracey was at the time because of the limitations of the cameras?”

Robinson replied: “That’s correct.”

During Tuesday’s opening statements, Boyd’s defense attorney, Sherry Armstrong, argued that coaches are allowed to leave the pool area and typically do not pay attention to the people in the water at all times.

“They also leave the pool area sometimes,” Armstrong said. “Sometimes they have to go to the bathroom. They are human.”

Two coaches and no lifeguards were at the swim practice watching about 30 swimmers, according to testimony. Witnesses also testified that Carroll ISD began staffing the aquatic center with lifeguards less than three weeks after Cerami drowned.

Bryce Cerami and his family have turned the tragic death of his sister, Elise, into a positive push for water safety.

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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.


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