A mother accusing the city of Wood River for causing her four-year-old's drowning death filed suit Jan. 18 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Plaintiff Laura M. Pauley's four-year-old son, Ryan W. McGrath, drowned in a retention pond after walking through a tunnel and onto a spillway, where he lost his footing, slipped and fell on July 23, according to the complaint. The death occurred at a retention pond Wood River maintained near Sixth Street, the suit states.

"That at all times relevant hereto, the Defendant had a duty to prevent minor children and other individuals from entering the tunnel or other passageway and accessing the spillway and/or retention pond or basin and/or had the duty to keep and maintain the tunnel, spillway and retention pond or basin in a reasonably safe condition," the complaint says.

"For years before July 23, 2010, the Defendant had actual knowledge that minor children and other individuals would enter the tunnel, walk on the spillway and attempt to swim in the retention pond or basin."

Because of McGrath's death, his family -- including his two brothers, a sister, a father and a mother – lost his society, felicity, companionship, personal services and future earnings, Pauley claims. In addition, they suffered grief, sorrow and mental suffering, the suit states.

Pauley blames Wood River for causing her son's death, saying the city negligently failed to prevent access to the spillway or retention pond, failed to warn of the dangers associated with the spillway, failed to maintain a proper guard to look out for children near the spillway and failed to provide a safe walking surface on the spillway.

In her six-count complaint, Pauley seeks a judgment of more than $300,000, plus costs.

Edward J. Szewczyk of Callis, Papa, Hale, Szewczyk and Danzinger in Granite City and Derek L. Filcoff of the Law Office of Derek L. Filcoff in Granite City will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-41.

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