Hartford police say a teen drowned at Keney Park pool in the early morning hours of the Fourth of July.
Hartford investigators say it would have been difficult for anyone to gain access to the pool because it was surrounded by not one, but two fences. In fact, police officers had to wait for the fire department to cut the chains that secure the gates before they could enter the pool area and pull out the victim. That victim, family members confirm, is 16-year-old Jaevon Whyte of Hartford.
Police have released the 911 calls as teenagers frantically called for help twice, trying to find their missing friend, only to learn he had drown.
"Can you guys please come to Keney Park Pool as soon as possible? There's a body inside the pool," a teenager can be heard saying to the operator.
"Why do you think that? Talk to me," the operator said.
"Because, because, I've been searching. We've been searching for our friend for hours now. We've been searching for our friend for hours," the teenager said.
"Yes, baby. I remember. I spoke to you before," the operator replied.
"We came to the same spot we found his pants and it looks like there's a body in the pool," the teenager said.
A surveillance camera at the pool was not working because of the extreme heat, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. The camera may not have been working for a couple of weeks, but the pool was only open for two days this season.
A notification system that alerts emergency dispatchers when someone enters the Keney Park pool perimeter at night also was not working because of the same modem error related to the heat, the mayor said.
Offsite work was in progress as recently as Tuesday afternoon to diagnose the problem, but the work was not completed prior to the Fourth of July holiday, Bronin said.
The surveillance cameras at the park were installed last year as an added precaution, Bronin said. He added that going forward there will be additional patrols from police in the area.
"There are pools open all over the state that have no additional security system other than a locked gate after those pools are closed," Bronin said. We took extra precautions to try to alert our officers anytime that's happening and in this case, that system failed."
"This was a tragic loss of life and obviously all of us are asking every question we can about what went wrong and also every question we can about what we can do to make sure there's not a similar tragedy in the future."
Jaevon’s stepfather told NBC Connecticut that two people came to their house looking for Jaevon at 12:30 in the morning. He said the teen left with the pair and when he didn’t return home, they called police. Jaevon’s stepfather said police told his family that the three were swimming in Keney Park pool when one yelled that the police were coming. He said the two boys ran away in different directions leaving Jaevon behind. Jaevon’s stepfather said the teen couldn’t swim.
Bronin said the boy's friends ran away from the pool around 9 p.m. believing that police were en route. According to police interviews, when the boys realized police were not on the way and that their friend was missing, they sought help.
Police said they found the boy at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. He was rushed to the hospital, but was pronounced dead. Many family members came to the scene later in the morning. While his mother was too upset to speak about her son, one cousin told NBC Connecticut she’ll always remember Jaevon’s smile. He would have turned 17 next week, and attended the University High School of Science and Engineering.
Bronin said he spoke with the family of the teenager to express his condolences.
One Hartford mother who brought her daughter to the nearby splash pad to cool off this morning was disturbed by what she learned.
“It’s really scary to think that, you know, that could have happened right here in Hartford,” said Sophia Hercule.
“But what I would ask is for the community’s help and for everyone’s help in recognizing that it is, it is inherently a danger to life to swim in our pools after they’re closed, when there are no lifeguards on duty," Bronin said. "That it is very dangerous to try to scale the fence and jump into pools.”
"When possible, our officers are always asked to do directed patrols at the parks and the pools," Hartford Police Chief David Rosado said. "We're aware that this is an issue. Hot weather draws kids out, they want to get into the pool. But the important message, not to be lost here, is to be sure that the message out there is don't do that because it's unsafe. We can't be there at all times."
Bronin was asked why officers were not onsite as a precaution when it became clear that the camera system was not functioning.
"These cameras were installed last year as an extra precaution, to provide extra notifications," Bronin said. "Prior to that, there were no cameras and there was no one stationed there."
According to the mayor’s office, Keney Park pool will be closed through at least Thursday out of respect for the teenager's family. Parker Memorial Center will be open in the interim.
All cameras at the pool are now functioning, Bronin said.
"I think obviously we wish that camera system had been up and running," he said. "We can't tell you whether that having that camera system up and running would have prevented it or not, but it certainly would have made it less likely."