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Investigators believe the drowning death of a Murray County toddler in a small pond near the family’s home was accidental.
“It is still under investigation, but an accident is what it appears to be at this time,” Murray County Chief Deputy Ray Sitton said Wednesday.
A dive team found 22-month-old Aiden Hammontree in the pond in 5 to 6 feet of water after rescuers searched for more than 30 minutes, Sitton said.
The toddler disappeared before 3 p.m. Tuesday outside his family home in Smyrna Circle near Chatsworth, Ga. He had been playing in the driveway outside a workshop where his father and the landlord were working, Sitton said.
The two men went to the back of the shop to get some tools, and when they returned the toddler was missing.
“They thought he might have gone back into the house or into the woods nearby,” Sitton said. “They searched and searched but couldn’t find him.”
The small pond is only 10 to 15 feet away, Sitton said. Other family members were home but no one saw the boy wander off, Sitton said.
A dive team was brought in after a search by fire department and rescue squad members proved fruitless.
“They [family members] said he enjoyed throwing rocks into the pond,” Sitton said.
The body has been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab for an autopsy, as required by Georgia law, Sitton said.
About 3,500 people die each year of unintentional drownings in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. More than one in five are children 14 and younger.
In 2007, almost 30 percent of children ages 1 to 4 who died from an unintentional injury drowned, the website says. Most of the drownings for that age group occur in swimming pools, and the children had been out of sight less than five minutes, the website says.
Sean Penn, with the American Red Cross in Georgia, called Tuesday’s incident an “unfortunate tragedy.”
“Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children younger than 14 years of age,” Penn said. “Every member of a family should know how to swim.”
Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...