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Testimony Begins In Case Of Swim Teacher Charged In Student’s Drowning Death

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EASTPOINTE (WWJ) – A metro Detroit blamed for the drowning death of a student last winter was in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

Johnathan Sails, 24, of Detroit, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old ninth grader KeAir Swift at East Detroit High School.

During testimony in Eastpointe District Court, physical education teacher Dave Zauner said he was concerned about Sails credentials, and his ability to keep the kids safe, given his conduct in another gym class.

“I just felt the pool, we know there can be injuries. It’s a serious place to be and a serious place to teach, and you better be on your game,” Zauner said. “I talked to the department head…and I was like, ‘Hey, we gotta get Johnathan Sails out of the pool.'”

Zauner said the department head assured him that Sails was certified to teach swim class, although prosecutors say Sails misrepresented his Red Cross training when he applied for the job.

Another phys ed teacher, James Reed, testified that Sails would often be texting on his cell phone and failed to maintain order during classes he described as chaotic.

Authorities said Sails went to change clothes in the locker room before jumping in to help KeAir, and was not poolside as the student struggled in the water.

But defense attorney Robert Leonetti insists Sails was the first to jump into the pool to try to save KeAir, and that statements from witnesses and video will back him up.  He said Sails and another man were in the water before a third person finally was able to get the boy to the surface.

On cross-examination, Reed said he did say Sails in the pool at the time of the drowning.

KeAir, who reportedly went 14 minutes without oxygen to his brain, was rushed to the hospital where he died three days later after being taken off life support.

Sails faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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