A Georgia family is trying to cope with the sudden death of a 4-year-old who died in June during a swimming lesson, and they want to make sure if negligence was the cause that someone is held accountable.
Dori Scott said she signed up her son for the water safety class to protect him from drowning, but on the second day of the lessons, Israel “Izzy” Scott was found unresponsive in the Waynesboro pool where he was being taught.
Reports show a nurse on the scene attempted to perform CPR. Israel was taken to the hospital, where he later was pronounced dead.
The Scott family has been ripped apart by Israel’s tragic death. Dori Scott said their house will never be the same with Israel gone.
“It’s rough because we do everything together,” Scott told Atlanta Black Star. “Mostly everything we do, we do it as a family, so anywhere we go, it’s like a part of us is missing. We put on faces, but we’re shattered and it just feels like something’s missing.”
Scott said Israel was “a little nervous” on June 13, his first day of swimming lessons. She posted a photo on Facebook of her “big boy” geared up in matching swim shorts and a shirt patterned with fish.
The proud mom, who often shared photos of her three children and husband with her social media friends, said Israel started to show a fondness for water.
Scott said Israel would gravitate to the water during their regular family vacations, so the couple decided it was time to sign him up for a water safety course. She heard about the swimming classes from a friend years before, and Israel’s older sister did lessons with the licensed instructor about three years ago, Scott said, so she felt like she could trust them with the toddler.
Still, Scott said she did not want to leave her son during the class, but parents were required to wait in another area until the end of the lesson. So, she sat in a car outside the home where classes were held near Augusta, waiting for the older of her two small sons to walk out at 11 a.m. He never did.
At about 10:55 a.m., a woman tapped on Scott’s car door and told her to “come get your baby.” The mother said it was “one of the worse moments of her life.”
Israel’s parents described him as happy, positive and “extremely charismatic” child who would light up any room that he entered. Walt Scott taught his elder son to look out for the family and protect the house when he was at work. At 4, Israel had started to read words and enjoyed spending time with his family and other children and loved playing games.
“He just loved life,” Walt Scott told the Atlanta Black Star.
Dori Scott said she knew something had to be wrong as she walked back to the pool on June 14 to check on her son. She could not hear what the woman who called from the car was saying, but she saw the woman’s eyes well up with tears.
“Initially when I saw that my heart dropped, and I felt in my heart that something had happened,” Dori Scott said. “I just flung my door open, started screaming and crying, before I even really knew.”
Nearly a month after the toddler’s death, the devastated mother said she still does not know what exactly happened to her son. No one at the scene knows what led to Israel’s death. The Scott family is struggling to find closure.
The local sheriff’s office launched an investigation. The family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said authorities interviewed everyone who was near the pool, including the swim instructor, but the investigation is still incomplete.
The sheriff’s office told the family that Israel’s body was discovered about 10 minutes before his lesson as the instructor was switching over to a new class. She was talking to one of the parents for the next class when someone noticed Israel in the deep end of the pool.
The instructor normally directs the children to swim the length of the pool as the other families trickle in for the next class. The instructor told authorities she worked with the boy right before the final lap.
Officials at the Burke County Sheriff Office do not plan to pursue criminal charges, but they have forwarded the case to the district attorney’s office.
Merritt said his team expects to get the sheriff’s investigation files on Wednesday and will launch their own investigation into what happened to Israel that day. The attorney said he would look to see if the water safety company is guilty of any civil violations and if employees followed procedure.
Merritt also said they have already pinpointed “ample evidence of negligence.” If that negligence rises to a criminal level, the family and their attorney expect the Burke County prosecutor to present the files to a grand jury to determine if the swim instructor or anyone else who was present should be indicted on criminal charges.
“There are regulations in the state of Georgia for swimming instruction classes that will require a certain ratio of adult supervisors to children, particularly under 8 – when they’re ages 4,” he said. “We’re waiting on the complete police report to get a final head count about how many people were actually there versus the personnel there for training, which we’re still unclear about who was there as spectators and who was there as actually formal parts of the class.”
Dori Scott said she has been able to find comfort in her other children and family as the legal team tries to piece together how Israel’s life ended so abruptly. The couple was looking forward to Israel and his younger brother, Noah growing up together. The pair were inseparable, she said.
The mother said Noah still plays with Israel, imagining his big brother is still around. She is inspired by how Noah tries to help the family cope with his brother’s death.
“My youngest son tells us to pray and that his brother Izzy is just swimming,” she wrote on Facebook.