NEWS

Logan Blake's death to bring sewer safety changes

The late 17-year-old's parents want no financial damages from city

Liz Martin/The Gazette

Cedar Rapids city officials will install a guard, fence and warning sign at the storm sewer inlet at 27th Street NE and the CEMAR Trail, where teenager Logan Blake lost his life in June of 2014.
Liz Martin/The Gazette Cedar Rapids city officials will install a guard, fence and warning sign at the storm sewer inlet at 27th Street NE and the CEMAR Trail, where teenager Logan Blake lost his life in June of 2014.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Logan Blake’s parents proved that they wanted just one kind of compensation for the loss of their 17-year-old son, who died after being swept into a city storm sewer during a downpour in June of last year.

On Friday, city officials announced that, in consultation with Logan’s family, they will install a guard, fence, and warning sign at the storm sewer inlet where Logan lost his life at 27th Street NE and the CEMAR Trail.

The safety changes by the city will settle any legal claims that Logan’s parents, Mark and Candice Blake, might have made against the city, Sandi Fowler, the city’s assistant city manager, said on Friday afternoon.

The city will pay $2,000 for the Blake family’s attorney fees.

Fowler said the attorneys representing Logan’s parents indicated that their interest was not to battle the city in court in pursuit of financial damages.

“When their attorneys contacted us, they were clear that the family had contacted them to work with us on an alternative approach to that,” Fowler said. “… They really wanted to see Logan’s memory in safety features. They wanted this issue fixed.

“And it was absolutely a pleasure to meet with citizens who went through what they have gone through, and how open they were to working with us. And they were pleased with our result.”

Bill Roemerman, a Cedar Rapids attorney who represented the Blake family, said Friday the family’s interest was not on “what we can get, but how can we save others from this.”

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“Is that sort of altruism unusual or surprising?” Roemerman said. “I’d like to think not. But I’ve never seen a settlement just like this before.”

In announcing the settlement, the city said that neither parent wanted to be contacted by the news media.

Instead, the city provided comments from the parents, both of whom said that all they wanted in the wake of their son’s death was to make sure that another child and another family would not face the same tragedy.

Logan, whose obituary said he enjoyed biking, disc golf and Frisbee and worked as a dietary technician at Cottage Grove Place, would have been a senior this year at Washington High School.

“Logan was the kind of person who would always help people and never expect any recognition or praise for it,” said his mother, Candice. “He was quietly one of the coolest kids you ever met. Having these safety measures in place will help our family find peace, knowing that other children in our community are protected. That’s what Logan would have wanted.”

Logan’s father said, “If this tragedy can be a catalyst for change, that will honor Logan’s memory.”

Dave Elgin, the city’s public works director, said Friday that it will cost the city $50,000 to $75,000 to install safety measures at the storm sewer inlet into which Logan was swept.

At the same time, the city is looking to make safety changes at other storm sewer inlets, Elgin and Fowler said.

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In that regard, the city has focused on inlets connected to 36-inch-or-larger sized sewer pipes 100 feet or longer in length and less than 1,000 feet from schools. Five locations meet the criteria, including the one near Arthur Elementary School into which Logan Blake was swept. Two of the others already have inlet grates. The city is conducting an engineering evaluation at the other two locations, one near Hoover Elementary School and one near Harrison Elementary School. Next, the city will use the same criteria to evaluate 14 additional storm sewer inlets within 1,000 feet of city parks.

Elgin said the focus is on inlets close to schools and parks where children might be more apt to be and more at risk when downpours lead to rushing water and flash flooding, he said.

He said the city has identified another 40 or so storm sewer inlets away from schools or parks that will be evaluated over the next 18 months. Some will require less costly fixes, Elgin said.

He said the city will seek a contractor to implement safety features at the inlet that Logan Blake entered before rains arrive this spring. The city will protect the site should rains come before the project is completed, he said.

Elgin said the improvements will require the city to monitor inlets to make sure that debris isn’t plugging the inlet guards and flooding the street, which had been a reason for not using inlet guards, he said

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