Officials in New York City are investigating the heartbreaking tragedy that claimed the life of a 3-year-old boy. Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, the toddler fell from an apartment balcony after neighbors say adults in the home were fighting.
Community members in Harlem’s Taino Towers residential complex, on Third Avenue between East 122nd and 123rd Streets, are mourning after the tragic death of one of the children from the building, Jayce Garcia.
Police were called around 11:09 a.m. to investigate reports that a young boy had fallen from the 29th-floor terrace, The Associated Press reports.
Upon arrival, responding officers saw the child lying on the 3rd-floor scaffolding of the building next door and took him to Harlem Hospital, where he was declared dead less than a half-hour later at 11:30 a.m.
Police are working to determine exactly what happened, speaking to neighbors and the child’s parents, saying, “We believe the child exited through a window, but exactly how that occurred is under investigation at the time.”
One neighbor, who lived five stories up from the Garcia family, said she believes she heard Jayda Garcia, the boy’s mother, screaming. Her children said they heard adults fighting less than 10 minutes before the accident. She remembers hearing the “thump” of the toddler hitting the lower platform.
“When you look out the terrace you see the baby’s body. He was in his diapers and T-shirt,” Cordero said to the New York Post. “Then you hear screams. I think the mom was screaming and I looked, and the baby was in the scaffolding.”
Cordero had a relationship with the family, saying she sometimes helped the young mother out by buying the child diapers and milk. She described Jayce as “a beautiful little boy.”
Several reports recall the mother and father were hysterically screaming and crying after the accident.
Alexander Townsend saw the mother’s grief firsthand, saying she was “sitting on the ground in her socks,” outside of the apartment complex and screaming, “My baby, my baby, he is up there.”
She told officers she thought her child was playing in the living room and not on the balcony. Normally, the balcony has a mosquito net around it, but this time the netting was not secured and the boy fell through it, The Sun reports.
The outlet further states that the NYPD believes Jayce climbed on a chair to look over the balcony and stumbled.
Safety questions have also emerged against the building owners, wondering if the netting was supposed to secure the terrace windows from incidents like this.
New York law mandates building owners with properties consisting of three or more apartments must install window guards to protect children 10 years or younger who live in the residence. It is unknown if there are similar safety provisions for windows on the terrace of a building in the city.
Jayce’s father, Julio Garcia, is said to have been proactive in trying to save his son. Witnesses saw him running “downstairs crying” and later attempting to climb the scaffolding to Jayce in time.
The Mirror states the parents were in the bedroom when the accident happened. When they didn’t hear the boy playing anymore, they started to look for him. To their despair, the mesh mosquito netting around the balcony had become loose, and their son had fallen through it.
Another neighbor Tangerine Castro, who lives four stories below the Garcias, explained what it was like to discover the child was in an accident, “It sounded like something really heavy. It sounded like construction.”
“We just started looking and everybody started coming out of their building. Everybody that were upstairs that could see down, saw the little boy with the yellow shirt. He was flat in the scaffolding. It was a whole bunch of emotion.”
Community member Richard Linares did not see the actual fall but was outside the complex when it happened.
“We heard a big bang. My boy who was there ran to the front. He ran up the scaffold to find the baby,” he shared.
“The baby was still crying and breathing when he got there,” Linares continued. “By the time the paramedics brought him down, they had a towel over his face.”
As officials investigate the incident, information has emerged. Neighbors have reported that the household was violent and that the child often looked “withdrawn.”
His grandmother disagrees and says while her daughter was “not well at all,” she had “a normal, loving relationship” with her son and she “loved him very much.” Moreover, she described the child similarly to Cordero, saying, “was a very happy baby.”
The mother has a pending endangering the welfare of a child charge dating to November 2021 and is now a suspect of child neglect.
Like the mother, the father has had some trouble surrounding abuse. He has nine domestic violence reports connected to him. In seven of the cases, he is listed as a victim. It is unclear if Julio’s abuser is Jayda. The majority of both of their cases, dating to 2018, has since been sealed, according to IBTimes.
But these records are consistent with the anecdotal reports from community members given to the press and police after the devastating accident.
A GoFundMe has been set up by the child’s aunt Gina Garcia to raise money for his homegoing celebration. The campaign is asking the community for assistance, reminding people, “No one is ever ready for such a tragic time, and with your help in donation will be able to help his parents.”
After four days, the family has raised less than $400 of the $50,000 they are hoping to receive for the July 14 funeral.