MACCLENNY, Fla. – A 2-year-old boy pulled from a retention pond off West Minnesota Avenue in Macclenny drowned Tuesday morning, according to Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden.
A post on the Baker County Sheriff's Office Facebook page said the boy, Franklin Parker, was being watched overnight by his 18-year-old older sister while the two were staying with friends. Their parents were at work, deputies said.
The girl told deputies she and Franklin slept together on a couch, but he woke up at 6:50 a.m. and she gave him a toy and a cellphone to play games on. She said the doors were all closed, but the front door was unlocked at the time.
Deputies said the sister was later awakened by neighbors knocking on the door, saying they'd seen Franklin running around outside between 9:40 and 10 a.m.
The girl and the two neighbors searched for the boy, and one of the neighbors found him in the nearby retention pond.
"When I came out to smoke a cigarette I seen the man jump in the water and then I seen him carry the baby out," neighbor Gordon Hall said. "He said the baby was face down in the water."
Another neighbor began CPR on Franklin until deputies arrived.
Franklin was taken to Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital in Macclenny, where he died.
Trisha Bennett, who lives across from the pond, has two small children and said she was heartbroken by what happened.
"I did not know a pond was over there," Bennett said. "I see people all the time, riding four-wheelers all the time over there. I did not necessarily know there was a pond over there."
News4Jax is working to learn more, including why the retention pond across from a small apartment complex is not fenced.
A check with the St. Johns Water Management District showed the pond, which is under construction as part of a storage unit lot, was permitted. The owner told News4Jax a fence is planned but hasn't been built yet.
The owner was devastated Tuesday but declined an interview.
The Department of Children and Families was notified and is investigating the boy's death.
"Sheriff Scotty Rhoden asks the community for continued prayers for the family and friends of the deceased, as well as the Law Enforcement Officers involved in the investigation," the Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook.
Photos courtesy of The Baker County Press