In less than 20 hours, two young children drowned in separate incidents in Mayaro and Port of Spain after disappearing for less than five minutes from the sights of their supervisors.
Dead are five-year-old Jemimah Agard and 23-month-old Christian Obadele Gonzales.
The latest incident took place yesterday morning when Jemimah was with her cousin and 15 other pupils of the Sharon’s Preschool/Nursery, attending swimming classes at the Young Men’s Christian Association(YMCA) along Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, as part of their weekly schedule.
Around 10 a.m., the class was completed and all 17 children exited the pool and were taken to the change room. It was here that Jemimah told an instructor she wanted to use the bathroom and the instructor allegedly allowed her to go off on her own.
About five minutes later, police said, a teacher with the group, Eurila Thomas, performed a head count and noticed Jemimah was missing. She raised an alarm and instructors at the facility, as well as teachers who came with the group, went in search of the child.
Within five minutes of their search, they observed Jeminah’s body lying face down on the bottom of the south-western end of the pool.
Teachers and instructors dived into the water and pulled the five-year-old onto the tiled surface.
The police and emergency health services (EHS) were contacted, but in the interim, personnel attempted to perform CPR on the child in hopes of reviving her. When the EHS arrived, they too attempted CPR as they rushed the child to the Port of Spain General Hospital.
However, despite the best efforts of paramedics and doctors at the hospital, Jemimah was officially pronounced dead around 11 a.m. yesterday.
Jemimah’s family was notified, and grieving relatives visited the hospital.
When residents of Rosehill, East Dry River, heard the news yesterday afternoon, they blocked the roadway with burning debris, as they demanded to know how a five-year-old child could be left unsupervised.
However, the protest was quickly dispersed due to the swift action by officers from the Besson Street Police Station and the Inter Agency Task Force.
Police sources told the Express yesterday they were also assisted when Jemimah’s relatives came down the hill and asked residents to stop, saying there was another way for the matter to be handled.
When the Express visited Jemimah’s home yesterday, her mother, Jamila Forde, was too distraught to speak to the media and had to be comforted by her relatives and friends.
However, an aunt, who asked not to be identified, said the family was taking the entire incident “very hard”.
“We are still trying to come to terms with this because Jemimah was Jamila’s only child. She was her one and only, and now she is gone. She was a loving child. Such a light for this family. Always wanting to give hugs and kisses, and she was always so helpful.
“We still don’t completely understand how this entire incident could have taken place, and to make matters worse, she only turned five a month ago (May 2). A month ago to the day of her death,” explained the relative.
She said the family was questioning why young Jemimah had been left alone, and they were demanding answers from both the school and the YMCA, so that they could get closure.
“Thus far we have been in contact with both Marcus Solomon from YMCA and the principal from the nursery. Both have offered their condolences and said they would try to help us in this difficult time. But what we want to know is why she was left alone. That is all we really want to know so that we can get some kind of closure in this matter,” explained the relative.
In the second report, 23-month-old Christian Obadele Gonzales was at the home of his parents along Alexis Street, Mayaro, when the incident took place.
According to police, the family was having a gathering at home, when around 1.30 p.m. they had another visitor. It is believed this individual left the front door slightly open and that Christian took the opportunity, unknown to anyone, to run outside.
About five minutes after, his parents realised that they could not find the toddler, and they raised an alarm.
Upon searching outside, they discovered Christian was lying face down in a small pool in front of the house.
The EHS was also notified, and CPR was performed.
However, Christian was pronounced dead on arrival at the Mayaro District Hospital.
WPC Hammid is continuing investigations.
Speaking to Express yesterday, young Christian’s godparents said the family was distraught over the incident, so much so, that both his mother and father could not bring themselves to Forensics yesterday to identify the child.
Christian’s godmother said: “They couldn’t come here today, they just couldn’t go through this at all. That boy was their first and only son out of six children. So they are taking this very, very hard.”
She added: “You see Obadele, he was the most loving and intelligent child you would ever meet. But he was a bit flighty, if that was the word. He was always running about. And he loved water. None of the children are allowed near that pool, but like he ran out when the door was open, and made his way there. We don’t know why he went. We boof him plenty times about being near that place, but as I said, he loves water. So he was probably drawn to it.”