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St. Nicholas complex pool cited for violations, family looking for answer's in child's drowning

It is a parent's worst nightmare to lose a child to a drowning. Some are now questioning the death of 5-year-old Ismaine Assil.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It is a parent's worst nightmare to lose a child to a drowning. Some are now questioning the death of 4-year-old Ismaine Assil.

"I just heard this lady screaming and she was running down the road," said resident Kelly Sullivan.

Sullivan is a resident of The Preserves at St. Nicholas. Its complex is where Assil drowned.

"Two of the guys had jumped the fence to where he was," she said.

Sarah Taylor lives in the same community and said she has seen children playing around the pool before this tragedy.

"The kids get in all the time," Taylor said. "I have watched maintenance see kids in the pool and drive by and say nothing."

Why is that significant?

The pool has been closed since 2016, shortly after the Department of Health cited the complex with three pool safety violations.

The violations were in reference to the handrail, the safety line, and life ring with rope.

"I have watched the kids get in all the time," Taylor said.

There's a fence and a gate. Even so, the condition is such that children can squeeze through the bottom and get into the pool.

It appears that's what Assil and his cousin did.

The family is from Central Africa and speak broken English, Layla spoke for the family.

"It is hard," Layla said. "But nothing you can do."

Assil's mother was still in shock, sitting on the floor in the living room of their apartment while friends and family offer support.

The management on Friday added an extra chain and lock at the bottom of the gate, perhaps a day too late.

Attorney Fred Elefant specializes in apartment communities and said the complex may have an exposed liability.

"The condition of the fence may determine negligence and that may determine liability," he said

State law requires basic four things to make a swimming pool safe. Mike Grubbs with Best Fence said it doesn't substitute the need for supervision, but these requirements minimize the chances of a tragedy:

  1. The height of the fence is 48 inches at minimum
  2. The space between the bars of the fence should be four inches or less
  3. The gate must swing outward, not inward
  4. They must have a lock and it must extend so many inches above the height of the fence

"With the self-closing hinge, it opens and when you let it go it closes and latches," Grubbs said.

Unfortunately, the fence and gate at the apartment complex where this tragedy happened did not have the self-closing hinges nor latch.

DCF spokesperson Jessica Sims said they're now investigating the accident:

"Every child death is a tragedy, and we grieve for all those who cared for this child. The Department of Children and Families has opened an investigation into the circumstances that led to this devastating loss. The family has no history with the child welfare system."

The family is waiting on authorities to release the Assil's body.

"We are waiting on his body and then we will bury him," Layla said.

The Condo/Apartment community is operated by Miami based Team Real Estate Management (TREM.) The manager is Christian Finkleberg.

"We have no comment at this time," said a spokesperson.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation cited the property in past for numerous violations. The Better Business Bureau gave the management an "F" rating.