1-year-old playing in backyard drowns in child’s swimming pool, police say
KENNER, La. (WVUE/Gray News) - Police are investigating after a 1-year-old girl drowned in a children’s swimming pool while she and her 4-year-old sibling were being watched by their grandfather.
The victim’s grieving mother identified her Monday night as 1-year-old Nevaeh Fugate. She says she’s a single mother of four who is struggling to afford her daughter’s funeral.
Police say the incident happened around 8:15 p.m. Thursday at a home in Kenner, where Nevaeh and her 4-year-old sibling were playing in the backyard.
The 4-year-old told police a dog knocked the little girl into the pool. The pool was mostly drained but still had around 9 inches of water in it, according to a spokesperson for the police department.
“It was only 9 inches of water in that pool. It wasn’t a full pool,” said Michael Cunningham with Kenner Police. “It is a tragic event.”
Cunningham says Nevaeh still had a pulse when she was pulled out of the water, but she later died.
Nevaeh’s mother has sole custody of the children, but she tells WVUE the kids were being watched by their grandfather, her father.
Cunningham says the investigation will include further interviews with the 4-year-old witness and a toxicology report from the adult. A charging decision could hinge on those results.
“Probably the largest charge that they can bring in this case is negligent homicide. That carries a 0- to 5-year penalty,” said WVUE legal analyst Joe Raspanti. “That would be the one that, if they’re looking to try and put in him jail, that they would charge him with.”
Raspanti says negligent homicide is more frequently charged in relation to deadly traffic accidents.
Meanwhile, doctors and first responders say the recent deaths of Nevaeh and a 7-year-old boy in Slidell should prompt parents or guardians to keep a closer eye on kids around water.
The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of the 7-year-old boy that occurred in a home’s above-ground pool. Parish coroner Dr. Charles Preston said the drowning appeared to have occurred when the child was left “temporarily unattended.”
“Sadly, these deaths occur all too often, and each and every one of them is avoidable,” said Preston in a statement.
Pediatrician Dr. Anna Suessman warns such tragedies can happen even in shallow depths.
“Remember, like those kids that we can’t put face down to sleep, same respect,” Suessman said. “If a younger infant who doesn’t even know how to roll over yet can’t prevent themselves, can’t get themselves up and out of the water, if they are surrounded by water in their nose and mouth area, they suffocate in that water.”
The doctor said she employs strict water precautions with her own kids.
“First of all, you have to have a vocal response from an adult saying, ‘Yes, you can enter,’” she said. “Feet first always. And then, it depends on if you are wearing swimmies, who’s watching. It really should be an adult in constant eyesight with no phones or any other distractions.”
Drowning is the most common cause of death for children 4 and under, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are an average of 11 drownings each day in the United States. Even near-drownings can leave victims with long-term disability from brain damage.
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