JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The body of a 4-year-old child who went missing Monday was recovered from a retention pond in the Argyle Forest neighborhood on Jacksonville’s Westside, police confirmed.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the girl was reported missing Monday morning from a home on Shadwell Court. She was eventually found in a pond behind a home nearby.
Following the death, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he is directing his administration to allow natural growth around retention ponds to create natural barriers to prevent further tragedies and encouraged private property owners to do the same.
1. I’m deeply saddened to learn another young child has died in a privately owned retention pond. Effective immediately, I am directing my administration to allow natural growth around retention ponds to create natural barriers to prevent further tragedies.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) June 28, 2021
JSO said the mother of the girl was gardening in the backyard of their home around 11 a.m. when she lost track of the child who was playing in the backyard.
When the mother realized the child ran off, she called 911 and authorities came to help the search.
Neighbors said the mother then went around the neighborhood to ask if anyone had seen her child.
Sunni Kirby lives nearby and said she saw the mother looking for the 4-year-old around 11:15 a.m.
“She said my daughter got out,” Kirby said. “I said ok what was she wearing and she said a swimsuit.”
Kirby said there needs to be a law for a privacy fence a minimum of six feet high to where children can’t see it and aren’t attracted to it.
Megan Phillips, who lives in front of the retention pond where News4Jax believes the 4-year-old was found, said the community is tight-knit and everyone joined in to help search.
“Immediately my grandma was like go check the pond because kids love water I checked all three houses right here and there was no sign of her,” Phillips said.
After two hours of searching, crews found a toy in a neighbor’s backyard that backs up to a private retention pond. A short time later, the child’s body was found in the pond near Argyle Forest Boulevard.
Phillips said her next-door neighbor provided surveillance video that eventually led first responders to the girl’s body.
Phillips said she wishes fences could be built to prevent these retention pond drownings.
“There are so many deaths. Little kids don’t understand and being a nurse you just want to help them in a way, so I don’t know. It sucks definitely for the community,” Phillips said.
JSO said there is no foul play suspected and called the incident a “tragic accident.”
Timeline based on video evidence, according to JSO:
- 11:05 a.m.: Child was seen crossing the street into a neighbor’s backyard
- 11:10 a.m.: Mom is seen searching for the child
- 11:30 a.m.: JSO arrives on scene and begins searching
- 1:30 p.m.: Child’s body found
The child’s death marks the third time a child in recent weeks a child has died in Jacksonville after falling into a retention pond.
In June, the body of 4-year-old Gavin Douyon, who had autism, was found in a pond on the Northside. In April, a missing 5-year-old Jacksonville boy who had autism and was nonverbal got out of his home. He was later found dead in a retention pond.
It was not immediately clear if the young girl who died Monday also had autism.
After the drowning deaths of the two children with autism earlier this year, Jacksonville City Council members met with state regulators to figure out how to move forward with new safety requirements for retention ponds across Duval County.
It’s an effort that could touch hundreds of neighborhoods.
One of the councilmembers pushing for change, Ju’Coby Pittman, offered condolences to the young victim’s family on Monday.
“Unfortunately, these retention ponds are essential to developments, but have been a hazard and are contributing to the drowning of innocent children,” Pittman said in a statement to News4Jax. “Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber and I are passionate about this tragic issue that has affected families in the last few months. Our efforts are to look at other models such as Tallahassee to develop legislation and safety precautions for the retention pond. A meeting is being scheduled with Public Works, EPA, Developers, Planning, OGC, North Florida Real Estate Assoc, St. John’s. Management, etc.”
The city is still trying to inventory how many of its retention ponds are without barriers, an effort that started at the beginning of June. Most of the retention ponds in the city are privately owned and managed.
In the last six years, other children across Northeast Florida have died in similar bodies of water.
According to News4Jax records, this is the 40th time since 2016 that a child has drowned in our area.
The youngest just two years old in Baker County.