Uncovered drain not far from where toddler drowned prompts concerns

I-TEAM alerts city, gets cover replaced near Arlington school

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An uncovered storm drain about a mile from where a toddler drowned in an underground tank prompted an email Thursday to the I-TEAM.

The man who spotted the problem in Arlington -- just feet from a sidewalk where students walk to school -- wanted News4Jax to get answers about how the dangerous situation happened.

The I-TEAM was able to go a step further, and got the issue fixed within hours.

Sharrief Martin said he was walking on Lansdowne Road by Terry Parker High School when he saw the storm drain's cover off. It had fallen into the deep hole, creating a potential for tragedy.

Martin said the first thought he had when he saw the missing grate was about 2-year-old Amari Harley, who drowned at Arlington's Bruce Park, not far away.

“The first thing that bothered me is I thought about the young baby that passed away, Amari, and I thought about any other little kid or senior,” Martin said. “There could possibly be a tragic accident.  We want to avoid that.”

Amari's family is now suing the city because of the condition of that tank, which some believe was left uncovered. 

After Amari's death, the I-TEAM looked at all the septic systems at parks and reported problems to the city. The situation Martin spotted was somewhat  different. 

That storm drain covers a culvert and is not enclosed, like the tank at Bruce Park.

“If you fall in there, who is going to know?” parent Keokeu King said.

The I-TEAM reported the missing grate to the city Thursday and within an hour, crews from Public Works showed up to replace the grate, which weighs close to 200 pounds. 

They said the grates are removed all the time.

“The kids keep taking it. We reset it yesterday,” one worker said.

Got a tip for the I-TEAM?

This story came into the News4Jax I-TEAM hotline. If you have a story you’d like us to check out, call or text 904-479-NEWS or email iteam@news4jax.com.

In addition to possible youthful vandals, the city has also had to deal with people who take the metal for scrap.

But securing the grates with locks is not feasible because Public Works crews need access to the drains.

Anyone who sees a grate missing, loose or otherwise a hazard is urged to call the city at 904-630-CITY to report it.

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