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9-year-old boy dies after drowning in Gibsonton creek

Hillsborough County

GIBSONTON, Fla. (WFLA) – A 9-year-old boy who was pulled from Bullfrog Creek in Gibsonton has died.

The first responding deputy arrived four minutes after a call was made and immediately jumped in the water, trying to locate the boy but was unsuccessful.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister says the boy was underwater for about 30 minutes before being found by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office dive team.

The boy was rushed to St. Joe’s South where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators say the boy and his family were having an afternoon barbecue at Whispering Waters Mobile Home Park when the his mom and uncle decided to cool off by getting in the creek.

They told the boy not to follow them into the water, because he wasn’t a strong swimmer, but he apparently ignored them and got in.

The water in Bullfrog Creek drops off to 10-12 feet, according to investigators, and the current is strong in some spots. The boy’s family frantically tried to find him when he went below the water, but failed.

A neighbor heard the family’s screams and called 911.

“I don’t want this to sound insensitive but if you have a child that doesn’t know how to swim, I think as a parent you have to be the one to protect them from getting close to the water,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “We’ll continue to investigate this circumstance to make sure this was purely accidental.”

Whispering Waters property manager Robin Morales-Perez explained most of their residents are aware of the creek’s dangers, saying it’s okay for boating but not swimming.

“It’s not safe,” she said. “Years ago I made the mistake, I went fishing in there and I stepped off the bank in the mud. I got pulled to my knees by the mud.”

Morales-Perez rushed to the scene Wednesday after getting a call about the boy going under. She said her heart breaks for his family.

“A parent’s worst nightmare is to have a child go first, at any age,” she said. “And he’s only nine years old.”

Deputies are investigating this case, and remained on scene late into Wednesday night. No other details have been released at this time.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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