A mother-and-daughter trip to Cambodia to see the temples of Siem Reap province ended abruptly late last month when the 8-year-old girl sustained second-degree electrical burns from a hotel pool lighting system, according to her mother and hospital medical records.
The hotel’s general manager on Sunday denied that the girl was shocked by electricity, claiming she had been burned by a hot light fixture on a pool waterfall ledge, which the child climbed upon while unsupervised.
Meredith Miller said her daughter Jade was hit with an electric jolt by the pool lights, there were no signs posted warning guests not to climb on the ledge, and management at Golden Temple Hotel in Siem Reap City had initially said they would cover her medical expenses.
“As they realized the severity of her injuries they then became less helpful and less cooperative,” Ms. Miller said of the hotel’s management on Sunday from Chiang Mai, where she lives with her daughter and husband.
“They had agreed to pay for all of her hospital stay,” she said.
Ms. Miller, an American national, said she and Jade had arrived at the hotel on July 21, planning to stay three nights and explore the temples of Angkor Archaeological Park with a friend and her daughter.
Instead, her daughter was rushed to Royal Angkor International Hospital that evening after she spent most of the afternoon and evening swimming in the hotel pool with her friend’s daughter, she said.
Luon Thea, general manager at Golden Temple Hotel, said there was no solid proof that the hotel was responsible for the girl’s injuries.
“If any electrocution happened, the friend of the girl and even the mother would also receive a shock,” Mr. Thea said, adding that provincial tourism police had investigated the next day and concluded the electrical system “could not produce a shock.”
Thorng Reaksmey, chief of the provincial police’s tourism bureau, said officers had investigated but “we did not receive enough evidence…and when we asked the family and they said they didn’t know.”
Ms. Miller, however, said she filed a complaint with police and a page and a half written statement seen by reporters.
Mr. Reaksmey said he would submit the police report to the provincial court for further investigation today and had already reported the incident to the prosecutor.
Ms. Miller said she and her friend’s daughter did feel shocks when they touched Jade, who Ms. Miller found lying unconscious on the waterfall ledge after she stepped away for less than a minute to use the restroom by the pool.
“There’s no reaction,” she said of her child. “She’s laying perfectly still.”
“I go over and touch and I can feel the shocks,” she added.
Doctors at the Siem Reap hospital diagnosed Jade with second-degree burns on her hip and leg, an unspecified cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and “effects of electric current,” according to a medical report provided by Ms. Miller. Golden Temple Hotel has settled a $1,750 bill for a one-night stay and treatment in the hospital, her husband said.
Jade was transferred to Bangkok Hospital Medical Center in Thailand the next day via airplane, where doctors treated her for “electrical injury and burn, involving cardiac muscle.” She was discharged after two nights, with medical bills of over $3,600, which the Millers paid.
Simon Miller, Jade’s father, said the couple had offered to settle the matter with the hotel and told the manager their estimated medical expenses were about $50,000 after accounting for expected future hospital bills including skin-graft surgeries.
“Our main concern is that it doesn’t happen to someone else,” Mr. Miller said. “We don’t want anyone else to get hurt or killed.”
In an email to the Millers dated August 5, Mr. Thea, the hotel’s manager, apologized “that we can’t say anything about the compensation or contribution to the total amount you mentioned of $50,000 for treatment cost. You have [the] right to go up to the court.”
In an earlier email to Ms. Miller dated the day after Jade was initially hospitalized, he said: “We never refuse to take any responsibility for the burn injury but the charge was too expensive for us to handle;
so we need time to discuss further and or we will follow the law of Cambodia for the incidence.”