Lawyer: Documents show tank where 3-year-old drowned not properly inspected

Amari Harley died after falling into Bruce Park septic tank in Jacksonville

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Recently obtained documents show the septic tank that a 3-year-old boy fell into and drowned in was not being inspected by a licensed contractor, which is required by law, according to a lawyer representing the boy's family.

Amari Harley was reported missing Oct. 22 after he disappeared while playing at Bruce Park, where his family was attending a birthday party. 

Amari was reported missing about 4:30 p.m., and the search grew to involve dozens of officers, citizens and a helicopter. A Florida Missing Child Alert was issued at 7:15 p.m. His body was found later that night in an underground sewage tank at the park.

The Department of Children and Families was involved in the investigation into Amari's death, and official records show his cause of death was drowning.

News4Jax spoke with the family’s attorney, Kay Harper Williams, who said the family is taking legal action because the tank wasn’t properly inspected. 

Following Amari’s death, the Florida Department of Health contacted the city of Jacksonville to find out who handles park inspections and the maintenance of lift stations. The city responded saying that a company called Environmental Remediation Services handles that responsibility. 

After Amari's death Sunday, city workers screwed plywood covers down on openings to the underground tank.

Williams told News4Jax that in the DOH’s investigation, records show that Environmental Remediation Services admitted to not having a licensed person oversee the septic tanks. 

“The way the report reads, I don't know at this time whether the contractor was not licensed under the Department of Health standards, or during the course of the contract, the contractor lost its licensing,” Williams said. 

DOH officials state in their report that “without licensed personnel, ERS was not permitted to work on the sewage treatment in any way.”

A city spokeswoman released a statement Thursday saying "neither the Department of Health or the city of Jacksonville has any information that supports that unlicensed contract activity has been performed at Bruce Park. Yet, we are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding this tragedy to solve problems where they may exist and hold persons accountable."

One change the city has already made at the park is to fence the tank where Amari died.

ERS could not be reached Thursday for comment. 

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