IMMOKALEE — An Immokalee toddler who drowned Saturday in a retention lake just yards from his back door could have been alive today if the lake had been fenced in, a neighbor said Sunday.
Branden Luna, 2, was found in the lake at 7:07 p.m. by Collier County Sheriff’s emergency personnel, about two hours after he went missing from the family home at 3703 Justice Circle.
The family and some friends were having a cookout, said Marisol Mendosa, who spoke for the family at their home Sunday.
“They were playing in a plastic pool to cool down,” Mendosa said. “The doors of the house were open, and people were going in and out all the time. Branden’s mom was cooking and thought his dad was watching him outside, but the dad thought he was inside.”
Once the alarm was raised, the whole neighborhood (consisting of about 24 households) came out to search for the boy, Mendosa said.
“We didn’t want to believe he was in the water, but unfortunately he was,” she said.
She said the houses flanking the lake are in a low-income development and residents have been concerned about the unfenced lake.
Some near drownings have occurred in the past, Mendosa said.
A similar lake at nearby Lake Trafford Elementary School is fenced, she said, because “the county knows it is dangerous.”
Mendosa said the neighbors had conferred after Saturday’s tragedy, and had vowed to get the lake fenced.
“We’ll do it even if we have to pay for it ourselves,” Mendosa said.
Sunday morning, friends and neighbors converged on the Luna household to offer their condolences.
Direct family members also drove in overnight from the Carolinas and Virginia to be with their grieving relatives.
Investigators have said Branden’s death doesn’t appear to be suspicious.
The Luna couple also has an 8-month-old baby.