CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl drowned Sunday afternoon in a backyard pool in Suffolk County.
As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported, police said the children got into the pool by climbing over the neighbors’ fence – a fence that wasn’t built according to code.
Police received a 911 call around 3:30 p.m., reporting the siblings, a 5-year-old boy and a 7-going-on-8-year-old girl, were missing from a home on Naples Avenue in Central Islip, 1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reported. The children’s mother, Tia Knowles, made the call after not having seen her son and daughter for an hour, police said.
Tia Knowles, a single mother, also ran to her neighbors’ homes on Naples Avenue, begging them to help find her children – Ralph, 5, and Sharon, 7.
“The police responded and started a search, and in doing that search, a police officer saw what he believed to be a shoe floating in a backyard pool of a neighbor’s house,” said Suffolk County police Sgt. Edward Fandrey.
Officers from multiple precincts – including the Suffolk County Canine and Aviation sections, responded and searched the area, police said.
Residents also went door-to-door and checked yards.
The officer who saw the shoe was sure a horrifying reality lay at the bottom of the pool, police said.
“The officers tell us the officers that saw the shoe, that as soon as he saw the shoe, he had a sickening feeling that the children may be in that pool, so he jumped into the pool. And the pool was not covered in any way, and the water was just black. He couldn’t search. He had to search by feel,” Fandrey told WCBS 880.
Indeed, Ralph and Sharon were found lifeless, submerged in a backyard pool at a neighbor’s home at 112 Half Mile Rd. in Central Islip, police said. Two officers pulled the lifeless bodies — first Sharon, then Ralph, to the surface.
Rivera had been searching for Ralph and Sharon with her grandchildren, and was there when police located in the uncovered 4-foot high, above-ground pool.
“I was on the roof when they pulled that poor baby,” Rivera said. “It’s something that you’re never going to forget. I saw that baby.”
The children were taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, police said. They were later pronounced dead, hospital officials confirmed.
The home with the pool is located behind the Knowles’ home, and the houses share a backyard fence.
Knowles’ next door neighbor, Donnavon Downs, said hours before the tragedy, he noticed the siblings climbing a backyard tree with its view of the pool at the house behind theirs.
“I saw them on the limb right there, so I don’t know if they looked over and saw the pool and were curious to see what’s over on the other side, so it was very sad,” Downs said.
Investigators said the owners of the house with the pool were in and out all day, and had no idea the children had trespassed. Police said their fence around the pool was put in all wrong, in a way that made it easier for kids to climb over.
It was set up with “the smooth section of the fence is towards the pool, with the ladder portion of the fence installed outwards,” Fandrey said.
Neighbors were crestfallen at Ralph and Sharon’s deaths.
“They were very happy children, loved to play with the neighborhood kids — they were very nice children — and we’re going to all miss them,” said neighbor Christine Campbell
“You would never think this would happen in your neighborhood,” added Rivera.
Suffolk County police issued a warning Sunday night — the weather is getting nicer, and everyone needs to pay attention to pool safety.
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