Inspector Never Measured Pool Fence At Day Care Where Boy Drown
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A state inspector who approved fencing around a West Miami-Dade home day center pool where a three-year old boy drown says he never actually measured the fence, gate or gap between the slats to ensure they would keep children out.
In a recently released police report inspector Sam Fateru said because it was outfitted with a padlock he believed it was safe, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
Fateru, who has been with the Department of Children and Families for 25 years, said he approved the fencing three times prior to the drowning of Jonathan Feliciano last December.
Feliciano’s dropped him off at the Mayling Branch Family Day Care, located at 2955 NW 99th Street, leaving him in the care of 63-year old Zobeida Gonzalez.
Feliciano drowned in the pool at the rear of the day care center after he had been left alone for nearly half an hour, according to police.
In the new report, the fence and gate were listed as being only three feet high, one foot short of the minimum. The gate also had openings or gaps which could allow a child to squeeze through which is against state code, according to the Herald. DCF spokeswoman Ana Valdes said on Friday that the code “does not provide a specific distance between slats of a fence or barrier.”
Another problem noted in the report was that the day care operators did not have a permit for the above ground pool and their insurance company did not know they had one. According to DCF codes, ladders or steps for accessing an above ground pool must be removed when not being used by children under care. At the day care center, the stairs to the pool were fixed.
Detectives said surveillance tape shows that the three-year-old was playing on the stairs of the pool for 6 minutes before getting in the water. He was underwater 23 minutes before he was discovered, per surveillance.
Gonzalez’s attorney has disputed that his client left the boy alone for nearly half an hour.
“The allegations that have been leveled against her that she had left the child unattended for 30 minutes are certainly not true,” said Defense Attorney Scott Egleston.” She was in fact looking all over for little Jonathan. She was searching all over the backyard. She had searched all over the driveway, in front of the house. She was frantic.”
Gonzalez is charges of aggravated manslaughter and child neglect with great harm.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.