A 5-year-old girl drowned Wednesday in a swimming pool behind a vacant house next door to her home on Jeannette Drive in Metairie after apparently getting into the yard through a broken gate.
It was the second time in two weeks that a young child has drowned in a pool in the metro area, and the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office said it should be a wake-up call to parents and property owners.
Renee Thompson, whose family lives in the 4500 block of Jeannette, was playing with her 7-year-old sister about 6 p.m. Wednesday and wandered off at some point.
After noticing Renee was no longer by her side, her sister looked over the fence and saw her in the in-ground pool of the house next door, which family members said has been vacant for a couple of years.
The girl’s mother, Monique Millet, called 911 and jumped into the pool after her daughter.
Millet’s brother, Randolph, was napping at the time and ran next door to see Millet in the pool with his niece in her arms.
“My sister, she didn’t know how to swim, but by the time I got there, she was coming to the top with her, to the edge” of the pool, Randolph Millet said Thursday.
Paramedics took Renee to a hospital but were unable to revive her, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato said.
Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich said school has been out for only a few days, and there already have been two avoidable deaths in pools. Eight days ago, a toddler fell into a pool on Oriole Street near Bayou St. John and drowned.
“This is our second drowning in two weeks,” Cvitanovich said. “It’s very tragic. Both of them with caring parents. ... It’s just devastating for the parents and for the community.”
Cvitanovich said about 400 children under the age of 5 die in accidental drownings in the U.S. every year.
Most are missing for only a few minutes before they drown, he said, and for every one that drowns, many more have to be resuscitated and some suffer brain damage.
While reporters were at the scene Thursday, someone came by the house next door and put locks on the gate and removed the “for sale” sign that was in front.
Fortunato said the death is being treated as an accidental drowning.
Randolph Millet said he and other family members had told the children not to go next door and had tried to close the gate to the yard, which broke about two weeks ago during a storm.
Millet said he closed the gate that morning before he and his father left for a doctor’s appointment, only to return and find it open again.
The house is owned by Delaware-based WSFS Bank, which took possession of it in lieu of foreclosure in June.
The house’s previous owner had been cited once in 2014 for having stagnant water in the swimming pool, according to parish records.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.