8-year-old girl fell in same tank where 3-year-old boy died

Girl, mother describe scary incident when cover gave way at Arlington park

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An 8-year-old girl who fell two months ago into the same Arlington park tank where a 3-year-old boy died Sunday described her scary experience to News4Jax.

April Butterman said she was chasing after a ball while playing with her family at Bruce Park when she ran across the cover of the underground tank and it gave way beneath her.

She said she managed to catch herself on the sides of the tank, which is part of a septic system at the park.

“I would like them to know that those things are not safe to play on,” April said.

April's mother, Nichole Butterman, said she managed to pull her daughter out of the tank, but that she smelled like raw sewage or foul water.

She said Amari's tragic death really got to her because they never reported the incident to the city because her daughter was OK, except for some bruises, and they thought the complaint would get lost in red tape.

“I wish I had,” Butterman said. “It could have made a difference.”

Butterman said the fiberglass top over the hole had nothing securing it in place when her daughter fell in.

“It was like a trashcan lid put on it, and you can pull it right off,” she said. “There was not any screws in it whatsoever.”

She said she's skeptical about the city's claims that the tank was inspected last month.

“That’s ridiculous,” Butterman said. “There is no way that thing could have been inspected. Had it been inspected, this young man would not be dead.”

The city released documents Tuesday showing complaints about the condition of the septic tank access filed within the last year, saying the lids were loose. City officials said those issues had been addressed.

Butterman said she decided to call the city Tuesday to report what happened to her daughter. She said when she called, she was placed on hold for more than half an hour while trying to make the report. 

City workers were seen at the park Tuesday, securing the tanks.

“Everybody needs to take a deeper look at this,” Butterman said. “Take it as a wake-up call and not let it happen again.”

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