JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — 4-year-old Gavin Douyon was found dead in a retention pond in the Parker Place neighborhood Monday night.
JSO says Gavin and his family were from out of state.
A close family friend spoke with Action News Jax, saying they came down from New York and were celebrating a birthday.
“He came in, had cake and jumping around, his mom fed him a little bit of ice cream, he was out again in the driveway and all of a sudden, he was gone,” Elaine Chance said.
Now, city councilperson Ju’Coby Pittman is pushing state lawmakers for change.
“We can’t do this by ourselves,” Pittman said. “If we are aligning ourselves with our state legislators and our federal legislators in developing legislation, that could be enforced.”
The city of Jacksonville tells Action News Jax there are 235 city-managed retention ponds, but many more are within neighborhoods and owned privately, like the ones in the Parker Place neighborhood.
Pittman said yearly inspections and additions like natural barriers and signs should be put in place for developments.
“When you’re putting fences up, when something happens it’s very hard (for) the first responders to get in there, so we’re talking about maybe even higher natural barriers, signs that are very visible,” she said.
Angela Hudson lives down the street from where Douyon was found, and said something needs to be done.
“It’s a liability, period,” she said. “There’s no signage up warning people saying ‘hey beware, there’s a retention pond and you might slip in.’”
At the height of the search, JSO said nearly 40 JFRD members and 52 JSO officers were out looking for Gavin.
“Although they’re not from here, the community cares about them and if there’s anything we can do, we’re here,” Hudson said.
Jacksonville neighbor Andre Ellis said his nephew, who was also autistic and non-verbal, died in a swimming pool just two years ago.
He says families in these incidents are now living through their worst nightmare.
“Tremendous sorrow, guilt, pain and it’s just hard to wrestle with,” he said.
He said at some point, grief turns into activism.
“Try to get legislation passed to prevent these tragic accidents from happening again,” he said.
Pittman tells Action News Jax the plan for immediate action is to continue educating and keeping families aware the dangers of retention ponds.
Pittman is hoping that information starts to spread locally, within community locations like churches and salons.
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