JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After a boy was found dead in a pond near his southside home over the weekend, a city council member called for an emergency meeting Monday.
5-year-old Mohamad Nour was reported missing just before 9:00 a.m. Sunday, according to police. Investigators believe he unlocked the front door of his family’s home and walked outside.
As soon as they got the call, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue coordinated a big sweep of the Wolf Creek Townhomes area.
However, District 2 city councilmember Al Ferraro, who was in the search helicopter for a ride-along, said it was more than just law enforcement who jumped into action.
“We were desperately looking over, not just the lake area in front of the property, there's many retention ponds," Ferraro explained. "There was a whole bunch of them to look at.”
Mohamad was autistic and nonverbal, according to JSO. Police and autism specialists believe, because of this, he was especially attracted to the water though he could not swim.
“I got to tell you, watching people come out of their homes in night gowns and slippers... When they found out there was a missing child, that place was just sprawling with people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, doing everything they possibly could to find this kid," Ferraro said. "Under the worst situations you see the best – your neighbors all trying to put themselves in the parent's position to try to find this kid. So, very, very sad outcome.”
He said fliers were made and the Nextdoor app was utilized to get the word out to community members.
Mohamad’s death marks the third retention pond death in Jacksonville in about a year.
“We want to make sure that no one else is hurt or killed... when they think that the retention pond is a recreational site, which it isn't," District 8 city councilmember Ju’coby Pittman said. "It is a very dangerous site, and we want to make sure that we keep our children safe on all sides of town."
City councilmembers Pittman and Leanna Cumber have been working on a retention pond safety campaign since their legislation passed last year. The focus has been on educating children, families and builders about the dangers they pose and potentially pushing for stricter regulations, Pittman explained.
“We are proud of what we done, but we realized that we have more work to do," she said.
Cumber called for an emergency meeting with city administrators, Councilmember Pittman said, to discuss how to make local retention ponds safer.
There are 235 city-managed retention ponds located in Jacksonville, according to the City of Jacksonville's website.
Click here to learn more about retention ponds, their dangers and how to safe.