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‘It Could Have Been Avoided.’ 3-Year-Old Boy Dies After Getting Trapped in Park’s Underground Water Tank

2 minute read

A 3-year-old Florida boy who died after getting trapped in a water-holding tank was remembered Tuesday as a smart and curious child.

Amari Harley went missing Sunday during a family event at a local park, shortly after a sudden downpour of rain scattered those who had gathered for an annual kickball game, his family said. Relatives fanned out to look for Amari about 5 p.m. and called the police when he couldn’t be found.

Hours later, Amari’s body was discovered in an underground water-holding tank inside the park, which city officials had drained to find him, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said at a news conference. The opening of the tank is large enough for a child to fit inside, authorities said. But it’s a mystery to authorities and the boy’s family how he ended up inside the tank.

Photo courtesy Jasmine Bates

“I was confused, lost, hurt,” Amari’s mother Jasmine Bates told TIME on Tuesday. “It could have been avoided. He shouldn’t have been able to do that.”

Bates, 25, said she had just bought Amari a Ninja Turtle costume for Halloween, which he was excited to wear this year. But the toddler never got a chance to put it on. “We still have it hanging up,” Bates said.

Amari’s grandmother, Michelle Kelsey, said Amari was quiet for the most part, but his thirst for knowledge made him speak up. “He asked a lot questions. He was very curious,” she said. “He always wanted to ask, ‘Why?’”

Photo courtesy Jasmine Bates

The city is investigating Amari’s death. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said officials “will always work to ensure safety and security in our parks.”

Kelsey said she’s in a “state of shock” over what happened. “It’s the worst thing — news you can never hear,” she said. “It’s painful.”

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