Amy Hensley filed a wrongful death lawsuit five years after her husband drowned while being attacked by a swan at the Bay Colony Drive condo complex near Des Plaines, IL. She is seeking at least $50,000 in damages.
Anthony Hensley, 37, visited the complex frequently to tend to the mute swans and often brought his kayak. He worked for Knox Swan and Dog, a company that places birds in ponds to deter geese. On April 14, 2012, an aggressive swan jumped onto his kayak, causing him to fall in the water. The swan continued to attack the man as he tried to swim to shore. Unfortunately, the father of two never made it out of the water.
Dive crews searched the pond for Hensley, who was pronounced dead at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.
The 37-year-old’s father, Raymond Hensley, said that he was a good swimmer, but he fell into the water fully clothed with boots on.
“He’s going to be remembered as one of the most wonderful fathers in the world. A very good father, a very good husband; there wasn’t a mean bone in his body,” his father said.
“It just terrible. No words can describe it,” Hensley’s stepmother, Tammy Hensley, said. “We are all very upset, but I can’t stop thinking about his two daughters.”
Daniel Gamanov said he saw the entire incident outside of his apartment window.
“His kayak wasn’t upside down, but it was, like, upwards,” he explained. “You could see the tip of it.”
Gamanov added that the swan probably thought he was getting too close to his eggs and just attacked him.
Doug Stotz, a senior conservation ecologist with the Field Museum, said that swans may seem serene and pretty, but they are more aggressive and stronger than people think. He recalled stories of people getting attacked by swans, but never heard of someone getting killed from the attack.
Steve Sullivan, senior curator of urban ecology for the Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, added that swans will fiercely defend their territory, especially to protect their young.
“Swans are certainly perfectly happy to attack something that’s much larger than them,” Sullivan explained. “It’s mama with her babies, and mama with her babies is always ferocious.”
Hensley’s wife claims in the lawsuit that the property management companies that owned the complex, as well as the homeowners and condominium associations are responsible for her husband’s death. The lawsuit states that Hensley didn’t do anything to provoke the swans and the companies “should have known the swans are strongly territorial with a dangerous propensity to attack.”
A spokesman for Hillcrest Property Management Inc., one of the companies involved in the lawsuit, declined to comment about the claim. The other companies named in the lawsuit could not be reached for comment.