Three Children Drown as Crowd of People Stood By

January 10, 2006 Updated: January 10, 2006

On January 2, five children entered a pool of water to catch fish on a river bank reconstruction site located in Xinxin County, Yunfu City, of Guangdong Province, and three of the children drowned because no required warning signs were installed to notify people about the dangerous area.

Many people on the scene watched indifferently while these children were drowning. The parents who sorrowed over their beloved children' death said that the construction party should be responsible for the accident, and that it is quite inconceivable that a crowd of onlookers just stood by and did not rescue these poor children.

A reporter for Nanfang City News interviewed Mr. He, the father of one of the dead children and a worker at the local reconstruction site. Mr. He told the reporter that his son, He Zhiliang and another child, Zhao Shiji, were both 10 years old and fourth grade students at Changqiao Elementary School, which is near the embankment site. Wang Qiang, a relative, came to stay with them during the New Year's holidays.

Around 1 p.m. in the afternoon, the three children were playing together outside, with Mr. He's youngest son and a six-year-old girl from the village. Nobody could predict that tragedy would strike only 30 minutes later. Mr. He's youngest son said that his older brother and the other two children wanted to catch fish. They took off their clothes, so their parents would not notice wet clothes and scold them. The three children then walked less than two meters away where they got into deep water. They struggled for a while and soon disappeared under the water. “If the construction crew or the local onlookers had helped these poor kids, they would not have drowned,” Mr. He's wife cried.

A veteran security guard who was on duty at the site that day said that he heard the kids crying for help at around 2 o'clock that afternoon. He noticed many people running towards the river bank, but they just stood by with folded arms. Nobody jumped into the water to save those children.

No warning signs were found at the site of the drowning. The construction crew never took any steps to enclose the reconstruction site, despite that there was heavy traffic in the immediate vicinity of the site close to schools and villages, thereby causing a threat for public safety.

The person in charge at the Administration of Work Safety of Yunfu Municipality pointed out that the drowning was an accident, because the work site prohibited any persons without permission from entering the site. He said that these three children ran in by themselves, so their death was partly caused by a lack of discipline. The families of the dead became very angry about this explanation. They argued, “If you did not dig the pool, the tragedy would not have happened. You did not enclose the pit or hang any warning signs. So, it was completely a security incident caused by human error.”