STARKE, Fla. - Authorities are investigating the death of a 2-year-old boy Wednesday night in Bradford County.
Investigators found Aiden Howard in an uncovered septic tank only 10 to 15 feet from his home. Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith said the death of the toddler does appear to be an accident, but an accident that could have been avoided.
The Bradford County Sheriff's Office issued a missing child alert about 6:30 p.m. and immediately began searching for the boy in the area of Northeast 162nd Way in Starke.
More than 100 volunteers, investigators, a K-9 unit and helicopter searched the woods near the home for Aiden, but when a septic company pumped the tank out, they found the toddler's body.
"These types of situations are totally inexcusable because somebody was too sorry, too lazy or negligent to cover a whole in a septic tank and apparently had been unclosed for some period of time," Sheriff Smith said.
Investigators said there were three or four adults in the house when Aiden went missing. They searched on their own for 40 minutes before calling 911.
The family has been interviewed by investigators with the the Department of Children and Families, which is also looking in the case.
"The investigation is still ongoing. But rest assured that if we can charge somebody, we're going to charge somebody," Smith said. "Because this was something that could have been avoided. Something as simple as covering up a hole on a septic tank. There's no excuse for that. That's just laziness or sorry-ness or just unacceptable. Very negligent. We take that very serious. No excuse. We've lost the life of a young child that could have been prevented."
In addition to the Sheriff's Office and DCF, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Medical Examiner's Office are assisting in the investigation.
Channel 4 has a crew in Bradford County learning more about the inquiry. This story will be updated as more information becomes available, with live reports on The Local Station throughout the day.
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