Dangers in the water: Jacksonville to re-evaluate retention pond safety after 5-year-old dies

Jacksonville, FL. — A 5-year-old’s body was found in a retention pond near Beach and Hodges Sunday after the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said the boy unlocked the front door of his home and wandered off.

Mohomad Nour’s parents reported him missing Sunday morning.

Jacksonville Fire Rescue found the boy’s body just a couple hours later in a retention pond behind their house.

“I’m saddened by it. I have a daughter of my own. So I can just imagine what the family is going through,” Rev. Jeffrey Dove said. “As a mom of a 7 and 10 year old, what happened this weekend was just so heartbreaking,” Councilmember LeAnna Cumber, of district 5, said.

She’s leading the charge with Councilmember Ju’Coby Pittman to address the dangers of retention ponds.

Just earlier this year, a UNF student was found in a nearby retention pond.

There are 235 total city-managed ponds and several more in neighborhoods that are run by HOA’s and homeowners.

Councilwoman Cumber said while the ponds have an aesthetic appeal, they can be very dangerous.

“It can get slippery, and the way they are built — they are very mucky. They have contaminants because it’s ground water,” she said. The retention ponds are built specifically to manage storm water runoff.

Action News Jax’s Robert Grant asked why they can’t be fenced off. The Councilwoman said some are depending on how steep the slope is. However, the concern is whether it would also block first responders from getting in.

She is meeting with city administration Monday to look at all options, including physical barriers.

“To do something that makes it less attractive for children to go near, and makes it difficult,” she said. “But doesn’t impede first responders.”

She worked with Pittman to start the safety campaign more than a year ago.

Dr. David Childers Jr., a neurodevelopmental pediatrician for the University of Florida College of Medicine, said that drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with autism. Mohomad Nour had non-verbal autism. While he was five-years-old, Dr. Childers said he was likely functioning at less than a one-year-old.

“The ability to climb and jump into dangerous places and not know he was in danger,” Dr. Childers said. “The most important thing we talk to every parent about is that drowning is the number one cause of death for a child with autism. The city is full of retention ponds. We cannot let them get out.”

He said autism is not a behavior disorder, but rather a disorder of functional language. Language dictates how well you function.

Dr. Childers recommended using more than just a single bolt lock to keep your doors shut tight around children with autism and said a double bolt would better protect them.

He said the concern about water is heightened in Jacksonville.

Action News Jax’s Robert Grant reached out to Wolf Creek, where Nour’s body was found and asked if there were any fences up.

While the HOA had no comment about the incident, they did refer us to a GoFundMe page set up by residents to help the family.