The body of a 4-year-old reported missing while at James Island County Park in Charleston, South Carolina, has now been found. Duffy McLemore was reported missing to park officials by his family on Saturday at around 4:45 p.m. Police were notified 30 minutes later. His body was found around 10 p.m.
— Colby Thelen (@ColbyWCBD) May 15, 2016
A multiple-agency search for the boy that included the Coast Guard, Charleston County Rescue, Charleston Police Department, Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, Charleston Fire Department, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was immediately initiated, according to Count on 2. The search by park officials began a little before 5 p.m. and broadened with the multi-agency search. The child had last been seen around the Spray Play area. His body was found in a pond.
The coroner’s office determined that Duffy died from an apparent “accidental drowning.” No foul play is suspected at this time.
— Alexis Simmons (@AlexisLive5) May 15, 2016
ABC News 4 reports that now city and county officials are calling for community support for the family. Mayor John Tecklenburg and County Council Chairman Elliott Summey personally arrived on the scene to provide support. Chairman Summey was among those who broke the news to the family about the sad discovery.
“As the father of a four-year-old son and six-year-old son, I struggled to find a way to deliver the heart-wrenching news to Duffy’s family along with Coroner Rae Wooten, and trying to maintain composure in a tragedy like this is virtually impossible. My sincerest condolences goes out to Duffy’s parents, family and friends. What was supposed to be a fun day in the sun at the park took a tragic turn that will change that family forever. Our hearts and prayers are with the family at this time. I pray we don’t have to ever deliver such devastating news to a family again.”
A local mother, Megan Fink, who has a 6-month-old and a 22-month-old, says that the Spray Play area is a concerning one because it is surrounded by small bodies of water. In addition, the pond nearest the Spray Play area is not fenced off. Fink says that she tries to watch her two energetic children at all times, but that it only takes a second for something tragic to happen. She acknowledges that a child can drown in as little as one inch of water and that the Lowcountry area in which they reside and in which the park is located is surrounded by water everywhere.
Fink says though that what has happened will not stop her from bringing her family to the park.
“I can’t say that a fence wouldn’t be nice, or a lifeguard, an extra person minding the playground and water park areas wouldn’t be nice, but accidents do happen and I think overall our parks system does a great job at keeping our kids safe.”
Councilman Summey says that he would like to honor Duffy’s life by finding a way to provide more swimming lessons to small children in the hopes that tragedies such as this can be avoided in the future. He too acknowledges that the area is surrounded by multiple bodies of water and asked everyone to pray for and support the family in any way that they can. He also encouraged parents to hug their kids, even creating a hashtag, #hugyourkids, and to remember that life can change in an instant.
“Living in the Lowcountry, we are surrounded by waterways, beaches, community pools and more. To honor Duffy’s life, I would like to work with community members to design more opportunities for young children to have access to swim lessons so tragedies like this can be diverted.”
A press conference was held on Saturday night to update the public on the situation and findings. Mayor Tecklenburg was in attendance at the press conference and once again offered his official condolences to the family.
[Image via Twitter]