BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A family was still quite emotional the day after a 4-year-old boy was found dead in a well, as instead of buying Christmas gifts, loved ones were laying flowers at the site of the tragedy.
The coroner reported Tuesday that Jassiah Clark died from drowning. The circumstances reminded many of what happened in 1987 when the nation watched for days as 18-month-old Jessica McClure, known as "Baby Jessica," held onto life after falling into a well in her aunt's backyard in Texas. There were cheers as rescuers pulled her out with only scratches.
Unfortunately, there was not that same happy ending from search crews in the case of Clark. Officers searched for two days until a frantic officer told her fellow officers she had found him. His body was found inside a hole. The hole is now barricaded off and boarded off.
The victim's aunt, Lesley Reed was unable hold back her tears while looking at the hole and his mother was at a loss for words. A teddy bear lies on what's become a memorial of sorts with loved flowers leaving flowers and other items at the site.
"Jassiah was a fun-loving boy," Reed said. "He would make you laugh about the craziest things. I miss him so much."
Reed said her nephew was across the street playing and would run back and forth between the two yards. However, with all of the recent rain in the area, there were plenty of puddles of mud and water.
"Maybe he thought he was dodging a puddle of water and ended up in this hole," Reed added.
An autopsy revealed Clark's death was accidental. It was caused by drowning with hypothermia. Dr. William "Beau" Clark, coroner of East Baton Rouge Parish, said there were no signs of any struggle.
"We looked very closely in our examination to ensure there were no signs of foul play and we did not find any," Clark said.
However, Reed disagrees and said there was foul play on the city's part.
"I blame the city of Baton Rouge for it. I feel as though they're 100 percent liable for my nephew's death," she explained.
She said there was no sign of a hole until her nephew was found in it.
"We followed every protocol," said William Daniel, chief administrative officer of East Baton Rouge Government. "We had everything inspected. We did everything that we do on all the other pump stations to make sure everybody is safe."
Daniel said the hole was a dry well for a sewer pumping station. The well was in use in April and part of it was seen sticking up from the ground. However, the well was gone by September and everything had been leveled. The 20-foot well had been closed off with concrete and sand.
"This is something that could have happened very quickly, a shift in the sand. We're still investigating. We don't know," Daniel explained.
Daniel added inspectors go out to the site regularly, with the last inspection being Monday. He said workers found no sign of a hole.
The family still holds the city responsible.
"I'm pissed. I'm numb right now and I feel like it was a big negligent on the city's behalf," Reed added.
A balloon vigil was originally planned to take place Tuesday night on the street where Clark lived, but it was postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.