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Manatee toddler drowns in backyard pool

MANATEE — The screams from next door sent members of the Cox family running to their neighbor’s backyard pool.

Kimmi Cox and her family found 2-year-old Serenity Marshall unconscious and began CPR on the child as her mother screamed for help, Cox said.

Manatee County emergency workers arrived at the home, in the 1200 block of Carmella Lane, at about 11:30 a.m. and took over CPR. But it was unsuccessful as doctors pronounced the child dead at Manatee Memorial Hospital a little more than 40 minutes later.

“My brother-in-law, Lee, and I ran over when we heard this terrible screaming,” Cox said. “Lee did CPR for quite a while, but there was nothing that could be done. It is really a tragedy.”

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports say the toddler’s mother, Royel Marshall, 28, told deputies the last time she saw her daughter she was playing in her room. Marshall said she went to check on the child and later found her in the pool.

Sheriff’s Lt. Robert Mealy said the home is older so the pool does not have a barrier around it, as Florida law now mandates for new homes. Mealy said he arrived to find frantic family members watching emergency workers try to save the child.

“It is a terrible, tragic situation,” said Mealy.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infant drowning deaths are not uncommon. Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 4, and three children die nationwide every day as a result of drowning, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends homeowners with pools install a four-side isolation fence around the pool and make life jackets mandatory for all young children in the pool. Residents with pools should also learn CPR and keep a vigilant eye on children near the pool, according to the CDC Web site.

Mealy said the toddler’s drowning Tuesday appears to be accidental, but detectives continue to investigate the incident.