Missing Autistic 9-Year-Old Found Dead in Inglewood Swimming Pool

September 10, 2019 Updated: September 10, 2019

The body of a 9-year-old autistic boy was found in a swimming pool hours after police announced he had vanished and appealed to the public for help finding the missing child.

Authorities said that hours after Inglewood police asked for public help to find the missing boy, who was said to be non-verbal, his body was found in a park swimming pool.

“On Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, at approximately 3:55 p.m., the Inglewood Police Department responded to Edward Vincent Park (700 E. Warren Lane) on the report of an at-risk missing 9-year-old boy who was last seen in the park with his family,” Chief of Police Mark Fronterotta said in a press release.

“Police officers responded to that location and recovered a deceased body subsequently identified by family members as the missing child we were searching for,” he said, adding that homicide detectives had “assumed control of the investigation.”

The deceased child has been identified as Zavire Portis.

Inglewood Police Lt. Neil Cochran told CBS2 neighbors noticed the child at the bottom of a local pool and notified authorities.

“We had the LAPD airship fly over and confirm they saw him at the bottom of the pool. And the officers dove in and got him,” Cochran said.

Police cited by Fox5 said the mother told them she pulled the car over at the park to get a drink of water and when she returned her son had vanished.

Police said they used a helicopter and bloodhound to search the area but it was park patrons who found the child’s body.

“A search was begun immediately and ultimately included patrol, air, K-9, and detective resources,” police said. “At approximately 9:30 p.m., patrol units searching the area were advised by park patrons that a child’s body was in the closed city pool located on park premises.”

The Los Angeles Times reported it is unclear how the child got into the swimming pool, which was fenced off.

Investigators have asked for anyone with information to contact Inglewood Police.

The Special Needs Network said in a post on Facebook: “We are devastated by the loss of 9-year old Zavire Dion Portis. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Wandering by children with autism is common, dangerous, and puts tremendous stress on families.”

The organization then shared the following six tips to prevent special needs children from wandering:

1. Secure your home
2. Consider a locating device
3. Consider an ID bracelet
4. Teach your child to swim
5. Alert your neighbors
6. Alert first responders

Accidental Drowning in the United States

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), around 10 people die every day from accidental drowning, and it ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

People in water
Stock photo of someone in water. (Tim Marshal/Unsplash)

How big is the problem?

  • From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States—about 10 deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.
  • About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
  • More than 50 percent of drowning victims treated in emergency departments require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6 percent for all unintentional injuries).
  • These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g. permanent vegetative state).

Who is Most at Risk?

  • Nearly 80 percent of people who die from drowning are male.
  • Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2014, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, one-third died from drowning. Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools.
  • Between 1999-2010, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans was significantly higher than that of whites across all ages.

What factors influence drowning risk?

The main factors that affect drowning risk are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders.

Man in Water
Stock photo of swimming. (Jacob Walti/Unsplash)

Prevention

  • Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision,” be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
  • Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.
  • If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bath tub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating.
  • Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.
  • Learn CPR, in the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.

Epoch Times reporter Justin Morgan contributed to this report.

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