Neighbors want answers after child drowns in Ave Maria

Writer: Elyssa Morataya
Published: Updated:

Dozens watched as 6-year-old Abigail Pineda was pulled from the water at the Ave Maria water park two weeks ago. Many called 911 or tried to help, but the girl did not make it.

A witness told WINK News reporter Camila Pereria over the phone that she watched as first responders jumped over fences to try to save Abigail’s life.

“I have no idea why they didn’t go through the main entrance of the waterpark,” said Veronica, the witness.

It’s a moment that replays in Veronica’s mind.

“But I saw them over at the side gate behind the pool. And I just saw them from a distance,” said Veronica. “I heard one person say that they hopped the fence, which is possible because I don’t know how the hell they got in.”

Even the 911 operators asked bystanders to help let crews into the park.

“Is there any way that we can get somebody to go out to the front so that we can get our medics in,” asked the 911 operator. “Can you send others out there to open up the gate for them?”

It’s made her question how well Collier County EMS and Immokalee Fire Rescue District’s station 32 crews responded to a drowning at Ave Maria Water Park on June 1.

Camila Pereria asked Immokalee Fire Rescue District’s deputy fire chief, Thomas Cunningham, what happened that day.

“There’s better access to keys to lock gates. So, in this situation, with the access issues that we had, which would rectify the very next day. So, unfortunately, it took this incident to highlight those access issues.” said Cunningham.

Cunningham says the gate was locked because it had just been changed to prevent break-ins.

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