‘Very Devastated': Family of 2-Year-Old Who Drowned in Tamarac Pool Speaks

The toddler died Friday after he was found by his father unconscious in the pool

The family of a 2-year-old boy who drowned in a neighbor's pool in Tamarac last week is speaking out and voicing safety concerns over the pool not having a surrounding fence.

Josiah Rivera died Friday after he was found by his father unconscious in the pool at the home in the 7800 block of Northwest 68th Terrace. Despite efforts to revive him, Josiah died a short time later.

"They're trying to take it day by day but they're very devastated," Wilmari Rodriguez, a cousin of one of the parents, said Tuesday. "Full of life, he loved to play, he was very active, strong little boy."

Josiah was in the process of learning to swim. Rodriguez said he accidentally got out and wound up in the pool, which did not have a fence surrounding it as required by law.

"We would like for the city to do its job and have the fence put up, there's other kids in this neighborhood, it can happen again, it shouldn't have happened the first time had the codes been enforced like they should have," Rodriguez said. "Something needs to be done because it's a law that was broken. You're supposed to legally have it blocked off and it isn't, there's no fence, no pool gate, no screened in nothing, the pool is fully exposed."

Kim Burgess, who previously owned the home where the toddler lived, said she complained to the City of Tamarac about the lack of fencing around the pool for more than a year. Her first email goes back to the summer of 2018, and by July of that year the city said the homeowner had complied by putting up a temporary fence but then failed to have a permanent fence built by the end of the year.

"I warned the city and the neighbors, and I tried to warn everybody. I even put up a fence in my yard so the neighborhood kids couldn't go from my yard to the backyard because it was completely exposed," Burgess said.

Tamarac officials said the homeowners, who live in Ohio, have been fined $150 per day since February, after a special magistrate imposed the fine at a hearing they didn't attend. The fines add up to more than $38,000 for the fence code violation, and a lien was even placed on the home in February.

Code enforcement officers were back at the house on Monday taking photos for other code violations. The paper trail with the city showed the person who lives in the home did try to get power of attorney to get a permit to build a fence, but it's unclear why that never led to a fence being installed.

"You know it's one thing if your kid drowns in your own pool, it's another if it's someone else's pool and it's because they didn't follow the rules," Rodriguez said.

NBC 6 tried to talk to the people who live in the home now, but they declined to comment. An attorney for the homeowners also declined to comment.

"It just breaks your heart that all unintentional deaths are preventable, but this was specifically preventable because they had been warned a number of times," Burgess said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez said the family is preparing for a funeral and hoping that action will be taken. A GoFundMe was established to aid costs.

"Right now they're going through the grieving process, dealing more with the pain right now," she said. "Eventually something has to be done, no one wants to go in the backyard and have to continue to look at something with that reminding them of what happened."

The Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating the child's death.

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