Villa Hills police chief says 11-year-old boy who drowned did not know how to swim

Witnesses searched for the boy for a half hour without realizing he was in the swimming pool.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 10:13 PM EDT
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EDGEWOOD, Ky. (WXIX) - Police say a second investigation is underway following the death of an 11-year-old boy who drowned in a pool in Edgewood.

Police say Eric Niyonkuru was at a birthday party Saturday night when witnesses found him in the pool.

They performed CPR before rescue crews arrive arrived. He was pronounced dead at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center.

A preliminary investigation by the Villa Hills Police Department indicated that Niyonkuru had accidentally drowned in the pool.

Villa Hills Police Chief Bryan Allen stands by that finding but adds they’re waiting for the toxicology report from the coroner’s office.

“When you’re a mother and you’re called and told your 11-year-old boy has just drowned, and he’s dead, and you walk in the room, and there he is laying there... that’s, that’s the worst thing you can ever tell a mother,” Allen said Tuesday.

A resident who lives next door says she was outside when first responders arrived.

“He bent down over the child and he started doing chest compressions, and not for very long, and then he picked him up and he put him over his shoulder and he ran with him, and that was... that was what was difficult to see,” the neighbor said.

Chief Allen says several parents and kids were around the pool but Niyonkuru didn’t know how to swim.

Witnesses told the chief they first saw Niyonkuru in the shallow end but when they didn’t see him later, they figured he had gotten out of the pool to play.

“The first thing they did was look in the pool,” Allen said. “They didn’t see him and then they went looking around the neighborhood for him and when they went back to the pool, they saw it.”

Allen says witnesses searched for Niyonkuru for as many as 30 minutes, all the while the boy was likely underwater.

“It was awful,” he said. “I will tell you, it’s one of the scenes that you never want to see.”

Allen explains it was dark out and that trees cast the pool in shadow. He adds the pool had a dark lining which could be why the witnesses didn’t see Neeyakuru in the pool initially.

“It shouldn’t happen, you know?” The neighbor said. “It’s not supposed to be like this.”

Asked whether the dark lining of swimming pools is a hazard, Allen replied, “Yeah.”

He continued: “A dark-colored pool, you have to light it up. If you don’t light it up—even if you light it up, even at night—it’s hard to see the bottom. Light-colored pools, if you light up the bottom, you can see down to the bottom.”

Allen says one of the kids at the party, Arif Deleon-Reynoso, left in tears.

“He was a nice kid,” Deleon-Reynoso said. “He was really joyful to be around.”

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