Reports give new details in near-drowning at West Ashley school

Reports give new details in near-drowning at West Ashley school

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Newly-released supplemental incident reports from Charleston Police provide more details on an incident in which an elementary school student nearly drowned last month.

Police responded to a report of a student who had fallen into a retention pond behind the Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School at approximately 11:05 a.m. on May 16.

When first responders arrived, the boy was unresponsive and lying on the ground inside the playground where school staffers were already performing CPR. Within minutes, the boy was transported to MUSC.

The new reports detail interviews with school staff members that begin to piece together a timeline of the morning.

Officers interviewed a teacher's assistant who said she normally works with a teacher and an applied behavior analyses trainer, but said they were not at school that day. Instead, she was teaching the class with the help of a substitute teacher she had not worked with before, the report states.

She took the seven students in her class to the playground for recess at approximately 10:15 a.m. and said she periodically conducts head counts of the children, the report states.

The playground is enclosed inside a six-foot-high fence with two gates: a locked gate near the pond and a latched gate closer to the school, the report states.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., police say a second class, also with approximately seven students, joined them on the playground.

The teacher told police the boy normally plays on swings and monkey bars during recess and had never attempted to leave class or the playground before.

At approximately 10:50 a.m., she saw the boy sitting alone at a red picnic table near the swings, the report states. She said that at approximately 10:55 a.m., she decided to bring the class back inside and blew a whistle to signal the students to return.

At that point, the boy was missing. She told police she began frantically searching for the child.

"She walked the perimeter of the playground while looking for him and then walked out to the parking lot to see if he somehow made it out in that direction," the report states. "She explained that the other gate near the pond was locked."

While she was searching the parking lot, she heard someone yell that the child was in the water, the report states. She ran to the pond, hopped the fence and jumped into the water to pull him out, she said.

A teacher of the other class told police she spotted the boy in the water during the search.

The substitute teacher who was working in the child's class said shortly after they first arrived in the playground, she spotted the boy "attempting to climb the fence nearest the pond" and said the teacher stopped him and "redirected him to another activity."

The substitute teacher told police that when she saw the boy in the pond, she tried to climb the fence but was unable to, and the attempted to move a picnic table to the fence so she could climb over, but was still unable to do so.

Officers on the scene reported seeing "a basketball-sized ball" floating in the water.

The reports also mention a camera system used by the district, comprising approximately 15 cameras, were "not functioning properly including the one [pointing] in the direction of the special needs playground." But the officer added in the report that the camera would not have shown the portion of the playground near the retention pond because the view would have been obstructed by the school's gymnasium.

The report also indicated the boy's condition was improving the day after the incident.

Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt released a statement Tuesday about the district's ongoing investigation:

"We appreciate the inquiries into our investigation about what happened on May 16, 2017, at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School. We are continuing to review the matter, and just received the supplemental report from law enforcement yesterday. We will provide answers to your questions at a later time."

In one other portion of the report, police indicate it does not appear criminal charges would be filed in the incident.

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