Jacksonville mayor: 'Entire city is mourning their child with them'

by: Action News Jax Updated:

PHOTO GALLERY: Jacksonville toddler Amari Harley found dead in Bruce Park

RELATED: Man say she nearly fell in same septic tank at Jacksonville park

Tuesday 3 p.m. update: Mayor Curry addressed park safety at a press conference Tuesday as city workers replaced lids to an underground tank where a 3-year-old's body was found.

“As a father with young kids, it is heartbreaking to see a day of fun and family enjoyment become a nightmare in our city," Curry said.

Curry said the city and police are gathering facts surrounding the death of 3-year-old Amari Harley.

When asked if the city could face charges or a lawsuit, he said it would be irresponsible to speculate until the investigation is complete.

He said his first priority is public safety.

“If mistakes were made by the city, there will be accountability," Curry said.

He added that the investigation into Amari's death will lead to a review of safety measures at every park in Jacksonville.

"I want every family in this city to be safe," Curry said. "Where there is neglected infrastructure, we've got to address it."

WATCH PRESS CONFERENCE:

Monday, 5 p.m. update: Jacksonville officials say the septic tank where 3-year-old Amari Harley's body was found passed the latest inspection by the city.

Officials said the septic or lift station for restroom sewage was last inspected on Sept. 12. It met all standards, according to city officials, but a CARE issue was filed in Jan. 2017. 

City officials said the CARE issue was filed using the 630-CITY customer service software system. Action News Jax is working to learn more about the complaint.

Officials said Bruce Park is one of 76 parks with septic or lift stations for restroom sewage. There are more than 120 systems throughout the city.

Officials said there are several types of lid coverings for the systems ranging from metal and fiberglass to concrete. They are attached with bolts, screws or latches. The Bruce Park system has a bolt covering, city officials said. 

Full statement:

"We are so incredibly saddened by this tragedy.  As JSO conducts its investigation, the City is assisting them by providing any information that will lead to a thorough and full review.  The City is also inspecting and analyzing how this tragedy may have occurred, to ensure that all City parks are safe and secure. The safety and security of visitors to City parks are paramount. 

Bruce Park is one of 76 parks that have septic or lift stations for restroom sewage. There are more than 120 of the systems throughout the city (multiple can be at one location). They are inspected every month.

There are several types of lid coverings for the systems ranging from metal, fiberglass, and concrete, which are attached with bolts, screws, or latches. The Bruce Park system has a bolt covering that is affixed to its dosing tank. 

Based on our review, the Bruce Park septic tank system has received inspections every month, with its last conducted on September 12th. (October report will be available after the month has concluded). All operations were noted as OK, meaning that it met all inspection standards. In February, the Bruce Park lid was secured, following an inspection on February 13th.

On January 30, 2017,  a CARE issue was made regarding the lid covering."

City officials say Mayor Lenny Curry has been in touch with Amari's family and shared his condolences. 

Amari's loved ones came to Bruce Park Monday and left stuffed animals, balloons and flowers at a makeshift memorial.

Many joined in prayer and told Action News Jax that they are tortured by one question: How could this happen in the middle of a packed park?

“I questioned myself all last night,” Amari's cousin Kamilla Jenkins said. “How did he slip away?  What could we have done different?”

Amari’s aunt Felicia White said she wonders the same thing.

“There was no negligence,” White said. “It was like he was here one second, gone the next. We were all here watching him. He just disappeared.”

Family says Amari will be remembered as a loving child who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the older kids.

His sport of choice was football.

“He thought he was one of the bigger kids,” Jenkins said.  “He liked to hang out with the bigger boys.”

Amari’s daycare, On Our Way Learning Center, has started a GoFundMe page to help his family with funeral expenses.

“We’re just going through so much,” Amari’s great-aunt Janice Douglas said. “It just hurts so bad. I’m just lost for words because he’s just a 3-year-old baby. How do you explain that?”

Monday, 1 p.m.: The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is continuing to ask for the public's help in determining how Amari Harley, 3, lost his life: 

"The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Amari Harley in the afternoon hours of Sunday, October 22, 2017. 

"During the short investigation, we have attempted to make contact with everyone that was at the park during the time Amari went missing. We have spoken to numerous witnesses that were present, however, due to the size of the park and the multiple events going on at the time, we believe there are others that may have pertinent information that could assist detectives in this case."

Amari's loved ones visited the park Monday where the 3-year-old's body was found.

They tell Action News Jax that they don't understand how he got inside a water tank at Bruce Park Sunday.

A spokesperson for Mayor Lenny Curry released a statement Monday saying the city is assisting in the investigation into Amari's death.

The city will be also be investigating how Amari got into the water tank, according to the spokesperson.


Photos: Jacksonville boy, 3, found dead at park


Full statement:

         "We are incredibly saddened by this tragedy. As JSO conducts its investigation, the City is assisting them by providing any information that will lead to a thorough and full review. The safety and security of visitors to City parks are paramount. The City will also be inspecting how this tragedy occurred, to ensure that all City parks are safe and secure."

City workers and DCF were at Bruce Park Monday, the day after the 3-year-old's body was found in an underground water tank.

DCF workers took photos of the tank and city employees worked to place new coverings on it.

A town hall meeting with City Council Member Joyce Morgan is planned for 6 p.m. Monday at St. Paul United Methodist Church.

Amari Harley was at a birthday party with family and friends when he went missing at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Police announced that the boy's body had been found around 8:45 p.m.

Sunday update 9:35 p.m.: Jacksonville police provided more information regarding the body of a missing 3-year-old boy in a press conference.

Police said Amari Harley was reported missing at 4:45 p.m. after family searched for him when they could not locate him at a large family gathering at Bruce Park.

Investigators said they got a tip to check an underground water-holding tank inside the park, which they said is large enough for a small child to slip into. 

Once the tank was drained, investigators located the body of a small child that matched the description of Harley. 

This is a developing story. Follow Action News Jax for the latest updates on this breaking news. 

Watch the full briefing here: 

Sunday 8:45 p.m. update: Jacksonville police said they found the body of 3-year-old Amari Harley, who had been missing for several hours on Sunday. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is expected to provide more information in a press conference Sunday night. 

The community is grieving after learning the news of the child's death. 

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Original Story: 

Action News Jax is working to confirm from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office whether Amari Harley, 3, has been found.

Police said Amari, who is from Arlington, could be anywhere. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released an image of the boy Sunday afternoon on Twitter. 

Amari was last seen in the 6500 block of Arlington Road, attending a birthday party at Bruce Park, police said.  

Police believe the boy is traveling in a "candy apple" green longer body style vehicle. 

The boy was last seen wearing a Darth Vader shirt and gold and black shoes. 

JSO received a call about the boy being missing at 4:43 p.m. Police said they were told that the boy had been missing for an hour.  

An Amber Alert has not yet been issued for the child. Click here to view the official Amber Alert guidelines. 

Police said they are unsure if he is in the area or not.  

JSO is asking everyone to be on the lookout for him and to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at (904) 630-0500 or call 911.

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