Investigators are probing the death of a mother and two of her children after their bodies were found on Sunday in minivan submerged in a pond.
The bodies of Ra’Layah Johnson, 3, and Ra’Majesty Johnson, 5, were found inside the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica. The body of their mother, Shatoria Michelle Brown, 27, was outside in the water near the car, Naples Daily News reported.
At around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Brown drove east on Eden Avenue toward the T-intersection with Apple Street. The car didn’t stop at the intersection, went over the shoulder and kept going until it reached the pond, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
Neighbors told Naples Daily News that they did not hear the squeal of tires or a car braking and only became aware of the crash when police, helicopters, and divers swarmed the neighborhood.
A woman named Michelle, who claimed to be Brown’s friend, told Fox News that neighbors saw Brown running door to door to ask people for help. She eventually ran back to the car to try and rescue the children herself.
“The whole community has come out,” Maria Zapata, who lives near the pond, told Naples Daily News. “We are wondering what happened. It’s awful.”
Re’Majesty was pronounced dead at the scene. Ra’Layah was rushed to NCH North Naples Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The car was pulled from the water around noon on Sunday.
The road Brown drove on was opened last week as part of a construction project linking two neighborhoods. Some neighbors said that people already speed on the road, with some also saying the lighting along the street is inadequate.
“They need to do something,” one man told Naples Daily News. “There’s one stop sign for a four-way stop. This used to be a dead end, but now that people start to realize that it’s connected, traffic’s going to get heavy.”
Police say the crash is still under investigation.
Neighbors and co-workers remembered Brown as a loving mother and a hard worker.
“She was a wonderful person; she was a very hard worker,” LeDarian Robinson, 39, who was a co-manager with Brown at a Popeyes restaurant, told Naples Daily News. “I remember her working her way up the chain for the last six or seven years.”
“She jumped in the water to try and save them. That’s what I was hearing,” Rose Houston, a distant family member, told Naples Daily News. “We know she would not have gotten in that water because she can’t swim (but) was trying to get her babies out that water. She loved her kids.”
“She was a wonderful girl,” Houston added. “She was goofy. She always had something smart to say but in a good way. She had a good sense of humor.”
“She was a very sweet girl,” the neighbor told Naples Daily News. “Most of the time when I saw her she was with her kids.”
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