Mother of Union boys who drowned says they were in house playing and watching TV before she fell asleep...
UNION — Two siblings — ages 3 and 5 — died tonight after they wandered away from their home and drowned in a neighbor's pool as their mother was sleeping, authorities said.
Township Police Director Dan Zieser said the mother, who was not identified, fell asleep in her home on Amherst Avenue sometime after 3 p.m. When she awoke at about 6:45 p.m., her sons, Kendell and Kenley Francois, were missing.
The mother called police and when officers arrived, they searched the home but could not find the boys, Zieser said.
The officers — Keith Brochu and Rob Donnelly — continued searching outside and when they looked over a 4-foot fence into a neighbor’s backyard on Parkside Drive, they spotted 3-year-old Kendell and 5-year-old Kenley at the bottom of an in-ground pool, he said.
Two officers jumped into the pool, pulled the children out from the deep end and began resuscitation attempts. The children were taken to Overlook Medical Center in Summit, where they were pronounced dead at 8:17 p.m, Zieser said.
In a late evening press conference on Parkside Drive, Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said foul play is not suspected but that a standard investigation is under way.
"Anytime there’s a pool accident, you have to look into if there’s any neglect by anyone," he said.
Romankow said it’s unclear how the children ended up the pool, but it’s likely they scaled the fence to get into the neighbor’s yard.
About a half-hour before the incident, the owner of the Parkside Drive home had been doing some work on the pool, Zieser said. The resident went inside and didn’t see the children enter his yard, Zieser said.
The neighbor only realized something was wrong, Zieser said, when he heard a commotion in his yard.
Dozens of neighbors gathered tonight at the scene of the tragedy, not far from the Garden State Parkway and Interstate 78, looking on in stunned silence. Friends or relatives of the boys arrived at their home, crying as they embraced each other in the yard in front of the children’s house, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape.
"It’s every parent’s nightmare to lose a child — but two?" a neighbor, Kenneth, said as he looked on with his 8-year-old child. "It’s hard to comprehend. You cannot put it into words."
Another neighbor, Pedro Semedo, 38, said he was having trouble controlling his emotions. "I went around the corner to cry," he said.
He’s actually working on installing a pool in his backyard, but said he’s now reconsidering whether to continue on with the project.
"This is a very sad eye-opener for everybody else," he said.
The pool drowning was the fourth such incident this month involving young children in New Jersey. On June 19, a 7-year-old girl, Fieona Edwards, drowned in a pool in her New Brunswick neighborhood.
On June 9, a 4-year-old boy was found unconscious at the bottom of his family's swimming pool in the Bergen County town of Westwood and was hospitalized in critical condition.
Bridgeton police and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the drowning death of an 8-month-old baby in a Bridgeton apartment Wednesday night.
Star-Ledger staff writer Amy Brittain contributed to this report.