HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - From gently cradling his first grandchild to being a source of support on special days, family meant everything to Chris Drayer.
Now his sons say they’re honoring that legacy by making it their mission to reveal the circumstances surrounding the 70-year-old’s death.
Dayer was the third veteran to die at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, where a total of 27 residents have now died after contracting COVID-19.
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday against the home’s operator, Drayer’s sons say they were left in the the dark about their dad’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
Drayer hadn’t been in the veterans home long ― just a couple months.
Admitted for rehabilitation, family attorney Jeffrey Foster says he was doing so well he was expected to return home to live with his son the first week of September.
Instead, that was the week he died.
“They want answers first. Second, they want justice,” said Foster.
Foster says on Aug. 27, just days before Drayer’s scheduled release, his family was notified that the 70-year-old was being tested for COVID-19. It took nearly four days to get the result.
“The delay in informing the family the results of that test, I really think threw the family into a tailspin and put them into a position where they felt absolutely powerless,” said Foster.
During a brief phone conversation on Sept. 1, Foster said, “Mr. Drayer could barely speak. But what my client heard him say was I’m doing very poorly. He died the next day.”
In the weeks that followed, close to 80% of the veterans at the care home would become infected with the virus.
The wrongful death lawsuit against the home’s operator, Avalon Care Center, alleges Drayer’s death was the result of Avalon’s “substandard care” and “non-existent health and safety practices."
An Avalon attorney responded in a statement that due to privacy laws they “cannot comment on individual cases” and that the “health and safety of residents is always a top priority.”
Late last month, the state public hospital system removed Avalon as the operator of the home.
“I think at this point in time based on what we know and people that we’ve talked to, I think it’s time Avalon leave Hawaii altogether,” said Foster.
Foster confirms more veterans families have come forward and he’s working to pursue additional action. However, he wouldn’t say exactly how many people he’s representing.