Crime & Courts

A Wichita YMCA's swimsuit dryer nearly cut off woman's finger, suit alleges

The East YMCA is at 9333 E. Douglas.
The East YMCA is at 9333 E. Douglas. The Wichita Eagle

A 52-year-old Wichita woman is suing after she says a malfunctioning swimming suit dryer at the YMCA nearly severed her finger.

Dorothy Thompson is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from the YMCA Foundation of Wichita and Extractor Corporation, which made the SuitMate Water Extractor that injured her on May 4, 2016, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year in Sedgwick County District Court.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of negligence for failing to warn users of and correct any defects that might have existed when Thompson used the machine at the East YMCA branch, 9333 E. Douglas. An extractor is designed to wring out a wet swimming suit by rapidly shaking or spinning the water out of it.

YMCA spokeswoman Shelly Conrady said by e-mail that "the piece of equipment in question is no longer in use at the YMCA." She said the Y was not aware of any prior problems with it.

"We have been working with Ms. Thompson & her attorney for more than a year regarding this alleged incident, and our hearts go out to her for any injury she may have sustained," Conrady wrote. "As always, safety is a top priority at the Y."

Lindsay Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Extractor Corporation, said she could not comment on the lawsuit. The company is based in Illinois.

One of Thompson's attorneys, Sean Brennan, did not immediately comment on the case Monday when contacted by The Eagle. Thompson did not return a phone message.

The lawsuit says Thompson tried to dry out her bathing suit after she attended a water aerobics class at the East YMCA on May 4, 2016. She went into the women's locker room to change clothes, put her suit in the extractor “and held down the lid to engage the machine.”

She released the lid and stuck her right hand inside to retrieve her swimming suit after the machine stopped vibrating, thinking that it had finished its cycle.

Immediately, she felt pain shoot through her middle finger.

When she looked at her hand, she saw her finger “all but severed,” the lawsuit says. Bystanders called for help.

The lawsuit says that other people in the locker room also thought the extractor was finished wringing out the swimming suit when Thompson stuck her hand inside.

After emergency medical services personnel who treated her spoke with witnesses, “it became clear that the dryer had sustained a very serious malfunction,” the lawsuit says.

The extractor was a refurbished unit that had been in the women’s locker room for only a few weeks when Thompson was hurt.

The Y stopped using it after that, Conrady said. It "remains out of service," she said Tuesday.

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Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker
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