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After Massive Search Effort, Missing Florida Child Found In Backyard Septic Tank

missing child handout of Jose Lara

[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]

A 1-year-old Florida boy died horribly — all because he took the wrong step.

Police issued a missing child alert on Sunday afternoon after Jose Lara (above) vanished while playing in his backyard with his sister. His mother had taken the daughter inside to wash up, but when she returned, the toddler was nowhere to be found.

An extensive search team made up of helicopters, drones, body-heat detectors, bloodhounds, and 120 officers and firefighters combed through the 2 square mile area around the Crescent City home in hopes of finding the boy, but there was still no trace of Jose after 24 hours.

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Eventually, a gruesome discovery was made when one officer suggested looking inside an underground septic tank. Sheriff H.D. Gator DeLoach explained to News4Jax:

‘”It’s not an uncommon practice in a situation like this when there’s a child missing to search the septic tank as well. Actually one of our leadership team members that made the call to drain the septic tank. At that point it was unfortunately when we discovered the child’s body.”

Investigators said a tragic accident likely occurred: while outside playing, the boy apparently stepped on a piece of rotted plywood that covered the opening of the tank, and fell through.

The soft sheet of wood did not break all the way through, however, and had sprung back into place after breaking. Add to that the area was covered in dirt and overgrown weeds that looked to be undisturbed — and the search party didn’t notice an opening.

Although police believe it was an accident, an investigation is ongoing into whether criminal negligence charges may apply for the family, who had moved to Florida from Honduras a little over a year ago. The Sheriff added:

“There’s nothing to indicate at this point that there was any type of foul play suspected, but it is still an active investigation. These things happen in just a blink of an eye. It’s terribly unfortunate what’s happened here, but it serves as a reminder to all of us who have children, there’s never an opportunity to leave them unsupervised or to take your eyes of them. Otherwise something unfortunately tragic like this might happen.”

Unfortunately, these types of drownings are common across the country, and according to attorney Kay Harper Williams, each of them is preventable.

Williams, who represented the family of Amari Harley, a 3-year-old boy who drowned in an unsecured septic tank at a Jacksonville park in 2017, told the outlet:

“This is another completely preventable tragedy. If it is true that the septic tank opening was covered with plywood, that would not meet any standards and it should have minimally had a high-density plastic cover and those covers are less than 50 bucks.”

Let’s hope others learn from Jose’s devastating death, and that no one else has to feel the overwhelming pain and suffering the tot’s family is experiencing right now.

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Mar 29, 2022 17:18pm PDT