A 3-year-old boy drowned this month in Palm Beach County while his father reportedly slept inside their house, the Florida Department of Children and Families said.
The boy was home Aug. 10 with his father while his mother was at work that Thursday afternoon, DCF records state. His father fell asleep — state records emphasize that it’s unknown whether that was intentional — and when he woke up, the 3-year-old was missing.
A search of the house was unsuccessful, so the father asked a neighbor to help him look for the boy, state records show.
More than 30 minutes passed before the father contacted the boy’s mother, who then called law enforcement. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene, according to DCF records.
Authorities immediately found the boy floating in the family’s swimming pool. They rushed him to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was pronounced dead.
The family declined Tuesday to speak with The Post about the boy’s death.
It’s unclear exactly how long the boy had been in the pool, or where in the county it was, but medical experts said he was there “much longer than 30-40 minutes.”
It’s also unknown how the boy got out of the home, though records stress that the home’s sliding glass door did not have either an alarm or child-proof locks. Also, the pool didn’t have a fence.
Authorities found drug paraphernalia in the home. They noted, however, that the father did not appear to be under the influence either of drugs or alcohol. He refused a drug test and declined to a formal interview with law enforcement.
Sheriff’s authorities didn’t immediately respond to comment about whether they are investigating the boy’s death.
State records indicate the boy’s family had been investigated in 2014 for allegations either of abuse or neglect. The nature of that investigation and whether authorities determined if the allegation was true, however, were redacted from DCF records.
The 3-year-old’s death is the third drowning this year in Palm Beach County reported to the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the 11th of 12 total child deaths in the county investigated this year by the state.
The day after the 3-year-old boy drowned, a nearly 5-month-old boy died at Wellington Regional Medical Center. He was found unresponsive Aug. 11 in his bassinet not even a day after he’d been released from the hospital following a visit for a cough.
“Every child death is a tragedy and it is especially heart wrenching when two young lives are lost in a community in such a short period,” Department Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement. “The department has opened death investigations into the circumstances surrounding these losses. We will continue to support these families and assist law enforcement.”
In June a 1-year-old Palm Springs girl drowned in a Palm Beach pool while visiting family, and in February a 3-year-old boy with autism got out of the screened-in patio at his west Boca Raton home. He was found face-down in water and died six days later.
Last year the department investigated three drownings in the county, among them 11-year-old Alexandria Fitzgerald’s March 2016 death. She drowned trying to grab her little sister’s backpack from a pond behind Santaluces High School on Lawrence and Lantana roads, just blocks from her home.
DCF doesn’t investigate every child death. The department only looks into deaths suspected to be the result of caregiver abuse, neglect or abandonment that are called into the Florida Abuse Hotline, a department spokeswoman said.
For example, the department didn’t add the June drowning of a 13-year-old at Ocean Reef Park to its fatality tracker. That teen, Sylvanus Wiley, had been swimming and jumping into the water in an unguarded area of the beach, authorities said.
Nor did state authorities look into the May drowning of a 17-year-old in a West Palm Beach pool. City police didn’t suspect foul play in the teen’s death and relatives told investigators the teen voluntarily went in the pool, though he didn’t know how to swim.