The relatives watching a 3-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy in Lancaster Friday evening probably had their eyes off the children for one to 1½ hours, according to police.
Sometime during that span, the children wandered down from an upstairs bedroom, out the back door, beyond a fenced rear deck and up the stairs to an above-ground pool where both children ultimately drowned, police said.
The boy died Wednesday in Women and Children’s Hospital. The girl was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Cheektowaga on Friday night. Police have not released the identities of the children or family,
Officers who responded to the call at 36 Rose St. were emotionally shaken by the event, Lancaster Police Capt. William Karn Jr. said, but they were not surprised that the boy didn’t make it.
Medical personnel previously told police that it had taken a long time to get a pulse on the boy, and that his prognosis was grim, Karn said.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t a surprise to a lot of our guys,” he said, adding that the whole situation “hit them hard.”
The two young siblings had apparently been playing in the pool earlier Friday with relatives, then went inside and were playing video games in an upstairs bedroom with their father, Karn said. The father and his children were at the home with a grandmother and great-grandmother. The mother of the two children does not live there.
Family members told police that the father fell asleep upstairs, but the grandmother saw them still playing in the bedroom later in the afternoon. That was the last time the two young children were seen alive.
It wasn’t until an aunt arrived at the house to pick up her baby from the grandmother who was watching the infant that she noticed the other children appeared to be nowhere in sight, Karn said.
“At that point, panic set in,” he said.
The aunt discovered the unconscious children in the pool, he said.
Police arrived within two minutes of the emergency call, Karn said. Fire and ambulance crews also arrived within a few short minutes. Once the emergency medical technicians arrived, both children were quickly handed into their arms and loaded into two ambulances. They were rushed to St. Joseph’s with a police escort.
A number of first responders at the scene considered it the worst case of their careers.
The family was also deeply traumatized. The grandmother at the home was taken to Erie County Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation.
Though the family’s backyard has a fence surrounding a patio/deck area, which separates the patio from the above-ground pool and the rest of the backyard, Karn said the fence door was either left open or was easy enough for the children to open. The fence door had no latch or lock, he said.
Detectives were present at an autopsy on the boy Wednesday morning, Karn said. He added that the investigation is ongoing but is expected to conclude shortly.
The apparent drownings in Lancaster followed an incident in which a 1-year-old Akron girl drowned in a backyard children’s pool on Thursday.