Deputies: Toddler left alone with 3-year-old drowns in bathtub

Nassau County officials say mom being questioned after children left alone

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter, Corley Peel - Reporter

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. - A 14-month-old girl drowned Tuesday afternoon in a bathtub at her Nassau County home, deputies said.

The toddler was found unresponsive and taken to Baptist Nassau, where she died about 2:20 p.m., according to the Nassau County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said the girl and her 3-year-old sister were left alone in a bathtub at their home on Linda Hall Road.

Sheriff Bill Leeper said that when the 22-year-old mother returned after leaving the girls alone for unknown reasons, the younger girl was face down. Leeper said the mother then called 911.

"She stepped out of the room for just a few minutes, and when she came back, the smaller child was under water," the sheriff said. "Naturally, she was scared and panicked and needed assistance pretty rapidly.”

Deputies responded to the home and performed CPR until Fire Rescue arrived to take the toddler to the hospital. 

The older sister is OK, deputies said.

The mother, who deputies identified as Josie Ann Clay, is being questioned by investigators, who found “deplorable” conditions in the mobile home, according to the Sheriff's Office. 

Leeper said it's unknown whether any charges will be filed. He said deputies had not been called out to the house for any child-related issues in the past.

The Department of Children and Families has been notified. The 3-year-old has been temporarily turned over to the custody of her grandmother while DCF investigates.

Neighbors told News4Jax that they're shocked, saying the mother would often play outside with her daughters and they never noticed anything unusual about the seemingly happy family.

"I saw them out in the yard," neighbor Matthew Harris said. "They looked like they were having a good time."

Neighbor Linda Coleman said her 1½-year-old granddaughter could never leave her sight.

"You just have to take precautions with young children," she said. "You don't leave them. You have to stay right there. It takes seconds for them to go under."

The neighbors said they hope the tragedy will be a wake-up call for all parents.

"Most kids can't swim. They have to be taught," Harris said. "You can't leave them alone in water like that."

According to the Drowning Prevention Foundation, a child can drown in a tub in less than three minutes. It recommends only filling a tub with enough water to cover an infant's legs, as a child can drown in as little as one inch of water. 

Most child drownings in bathtubs happened when a child was left unsupervised by an adult, according to the foundation.

Click here for water safety tips from the Drowning Prevention Foundation.

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