Authorities are investigating whether there’s evidence of neglect in connection with the deaths 3-year-old Kendell Francois and his 5-year-old brother, Kenley, prosecutors said.
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports
Their mother, Guerdine Jean-Francois, said she was spending time with her boys Thursday afternoon with one of her sons watching television and the other son snuggled next to her.
But that’s when police said she dozed off. When she awoke, the two boys were missing and Jean-Francois quickly called police.
Investigators believe the boys got out of the house and climbed a 4-foot chain link fence to get to their neighbor’s pool. Their mother said she searched every room of the house and looked outside, but never thought to look in her neighbor’s pool.
“They never climb that fence,” she said. “Not in front of my eyes. I’ve never seen my sons climb that. That’s why I never have any intention to go look there.”
However, some neighbors told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan they had seen the boys attempt to climb the fence in the past, but never make it over.
One neighbor said she heard the brothers playing and laughing a half hour before they were discovered.
“I heard them playing, but I thought they were in their own backyard,” said Elizabeth Makhanda. “I’m devastated. My heart is beating so fast, I can’t believe it.”
Police found the boys at the bottom of the pool. Officers jumped in and tried to resuscitate them, but they were pronounced dead at the hospital a few hours later.
Jean-Francois said 5-year-old Kenley had just graduated from pre-school.
“They are beautiful, they make me laugh every day,” she said. “They just give me love, ‘Mommy, I love you. Mommy I love you’ every day.”
While no foul play is suspected, Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said there may be criminal charges.
“We’re looking for additional evidence to determine if there was any neglect on the part of any party,” Romankow said.
Police said the neighbor didn’t realize the children had gotten into the pool.
The American Red Cross said drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 5.
“Everyone should know how to swim and to perform CPR,” the Red Cross’ Dianne Concannon told CBS 2’s Sloan.
Concannon also said pool owners also need to be vigilant.
“If you have small children, even as neighbors, you want to remove those toys, those floats from the pool and pool area,” Concannon said.
Pools are attractive to children, especially on hot days like the ones the Tri-State Area has experienced of late. Concannon said there are safety devices that can go on the side of pools that send off an alarm when anyone is near the water.
She also said parents need to be observant.
“Look around, the fence, is there any furniture that could be used as a climbing tool?” she said.
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