Phoenix Union faces $50 million lawsuit from family of football player who drowned in Show Low Lake

The family of a Phoenix football player who drowned in Show Low Lake last summer just filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Phoenix Union High School District.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Hampton was with his football team at camp when the group went swimming.

The attorney for his family says this lawsuit is about accountability.

"This is one of the worst cases I have ever seen of negligence from a school district," attorney Benjamin Taylor said. Taylor says Hampton's death was preventable.

"The school administrators, coaches, teachers, they have the highest duty to make sure their students are kept alive and safe when they go on field trips," Taylor said.

In July 2023, Hampton and his Cesar Chavez High School teammates went to a football camp. On the evening of July 17, the Navajo County Sheriff's Office says the team went to Show Low Lake for fun.

About 41 kids were on a dock and the majority jumped in.

"On the body camera, the coach mentions that he knew from Christopher's mother, that Christopher couldn't swim," Taylor said.

FOX 10 went through all the body camera footage when deputies were talking with the football coaches to try and figure out what happened to Hampton.

In one clip, a coach says, "His mom let us know he can't swim. Um. It was never a thing like everybody's got to go in. It was like if you want to go in, go in."

The coach, who is not identified, says they never saw any of the kids struggling in the water.

"I personally was on the dock the whole time they were in the water. Like I said, I jumped in there. There was another coach, so we had two on the dock at all times, and another one out to shore."

The coaches tell law enforcement when they were done swimming, they loaded up in vehicles and returned to camp. The sheriff’s office says a formal headcount never happened.

"It was hours later that another student, not the coaches, who informed Christopher’s mom that Christopher is missing," Taylor said.


Autopsy report for Phoenix teen who died at Northern Arizona lake released

We are learning more about a water-related incident that took the life of a 15-year-old who was attending a football summer camp in Northern Arizona.

The teen's family drives up that night from the Valley. His mother, Tonisha Johnson, talks with his coaches in a parking lot, and it’s recorded on a body camera by deputies.

"He (Christopher) would not do that," his mom said. "He would not just go from right there and jump in that water. Because he cannot swim."

Johnson tells the men that she had written on previous field trip forms, "no swimming."

At the end of the discussion, his mother and coaches pray together.

The next day, the 15-year-old's body was pulled out of the water with his mother watching nearby.

An assistant coach was visibly upset.

The medical examiner says Hampton reportedly swam from the end of the dock to a buoy that was approximately 30 yards away and the water was approximately 25 feet deep.

In a statement on March 4, his family says in part, "The pain of losing him is unbearable. We hope the lawsuit will bring justice to our son."

We contacted the Phoenix Union High School District and were told that the district does not comment on active litigation.

The governing board voted last month to overhaul its rules involving student travel. The new policy prohibits swimming, scuba diving, rock climbing and zip lining.

The athletic director and head football coach resigned following the drowning.