As a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, a wreath and candles grew, questions lingered Monday on how a young girl and her brother died after being pulled from a neighbor’s murky, uncovered above-ground swimming pool in a suburban New York community.
An autopsy was still pending on the cause of the children’s deaths, but police on Long Island have described the case as an apparent drowning.
Tia Knowles, the mother of the two children, insisted to reporters that she was a conscientious parent.
“Right now, I have everyone looking at me as the mother and wondering what happened,” Knowles said while sitting in a neighbor’s house down the street from where she lived with her children. “I watch my children carefully but due to the split second, the time I wasn’t watching them, unfortunately they got into my neighbor’s yard and they got into their pool.”
Knowles, who lived in a home run by a nonprofit group that assists homeless families, said she had no money to pay for the funerals.
Suffolk County Detective Sgt. Edward Fandrey told reporters Sunday that police received a 911 call about 3:30 p.m. from Knowles reporting that her 5-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter disappeared from their home in Central Islip, about 50 miles east of New York City.
During the search, an officer spotted a shoe floating in a neighbor’s pool, which was uncovered and contained blackish water, Fandrey said.
Officers jumped into the 4-foot-deep pool and found Ralph Knowles, 5, and Sharon Knowles, 7. The brother and sister were taken to Southside Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
The neighbor’s property borders the rear of the property where the children lived. It was not clear how the children gained access to the neighbor’s yard, although after the children were found, Islip town officials issued two citations to the owner of the home with the pool.
Neighbors and friends of the two young children were at a loss Monday to understand how the tragedy unfolded. It is not clear anyone saw the children in the moments before they gained access to the pool.
“That very much bothers me; that they were able to have access to that pool,” said Mitchell Olshwitcz, who identified himself as a family friend. He described Ralph and Sharon as “great kids. They liked to get into everything, obviously.”