2-year-old's drowning death called 'terrible accident'

A neighbor holds a photograph of two-year-old Andrea Meza, of Immokalee. Meza was found by her parents floating face down in a neighbor's fenced in pool on the 600 block of Booker Boulevard in Immokalee on Monday afternoon. According to the incident report, the little girl ran away from her parents, who then found her 15 minutes later dead in a neighbor's pool. Tristan Spinski/Staff

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A neighbor holds a photograph of two-year-old Andrea Meza, of Immokalee. Meza was found by her parents floating face down in a neighbor's fenced in pool on the 600 block of Booker Boulevard in Immokalee on Monday afternoon. According to the incident report, the little girl ran away from her parents, who then found her 15 minutes later dead in a neighbor's pool. Tristan Spinski/Staff

Video from NBC-2

— The owner of an Immokalee home where a 2-year-old girl was found dead in the swimming pool on Monday called the death “a terrible accident.”

“It’s sad,” said Ernulfo Herrera, 50, who owns the home at 610 Booker Blvd.

Collier County sheriff’s deputies are continuing to investigate the apparent drowning death of Andrea Meza Santana on Monday afternoon. Herrera said Tuesday the gate to his in-ground pool was left open because he had planned to clean it.

Around 4:30 p.m., when it was about to rain, Herrera said he stepped away from the pool, which is located in the front of his home, and walked to his backyard shop. Shortly after, Herrera heard Andrea’s parents screaming when they discovered their daughter in his pool.

Andrea’s father, Celso Jimenez Meza, jumped into the pool and pulled out his daughter, according to the police report.

The girl’s parents, Meza, 28, and Norma Santana Montero, 24, told deputies that Andrea walked away from their house in the Los Herreras community, a 15-unit development.

Montero followed Andrea to try to catch her as she walked to a laundromat on the property, according to the report. Montero walked around the building to come out in front of Andrea. However, when Montero came out on the other side of the building Andrea was gone, reports said.

Montero told deputies she and her husband looked around the area for about 15 minutes and could not find their daughter, according to reports. Then Meza walked up to Herrera’s fence and discovered Andrea face down in the pool, reports said.

Andrea was transported to NCH North Naples Hospital, where she later died.

The pool door is always closed, but not locked, said Herrera.

Florida has swimming pool fence laws, including residential pool barrier requirements. Herrera’s pool, which is not open the public, has a fence around it.

After Monday’s drowning, Herrera, who has lived in the community for 35 years, said he plans to lock the pool door or drain the pool.

Sheriff’s Office officials would not say if Herrera is facing possible charges for leaving his pool gate open.

Andrea’s grieving parents did not want to comment Tuesday. Several religious candles burned inside of their house. The couple also has a 6-year-old son.

Herrera said Monday’s incident wasn’t the first time Andrea wandered away from her parents.

Neighbors say children always play in the courtyard area of the community.

Neighbor Ellis Ocoyua, 27, said in Spanish that Andrea’s parents should have taken better care of their child. Ocoyua said he wasn’t aware of what happened Monday until an ambulance arrived.

Drowning is the leading cause of death among children age one to four in Collier — as it is statewide.

Lee County recorded six drowning deaths for children ages 1 to 5 in 2009, which are the most recent numbers available. There were three drowning deaths in Collier in the same period, according to the figures.

Locally, both Lee and Collier health department officials recommend all pool owners focus on three things: making children safer around water, making the pool as safe as possible with various barriers and quality adult supervision.

Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/

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