Shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, Marina Matias of Lakeland, New Jersey, reported her 2-year-old daughter missing. The girl, who has been identified only as J.C., was playing with her four siblings in the backyard and, according to her mother, had been missing only 20 minutes when the authorities were notified.
The police responded quickly, bringing in helicopters, K-9 units, and dozens of officers to search the area around the home. Tragedy struck three hours into the search, when investigators found a 3 foot hole in the ground in the backyard where the little girl was playing. The hole led to a septic tank and the Public Works Department was called to drain the water from the tank. The body of the little girl was found inside.
The girl’s mother, who rents the home, told investigators she had no knowledge that the hole existed and neighbors of the family echoed her statement. Authorities have ruled the death an accident and say they believe that the little girl simply fell through the uncovered hole.
It is currently unclear whether someone will be held liable for the child’s death, though prosecutors are investigating whether the owner of the home could be held responsible.
This sad news serves as a reminder to all parents to familiarize yourself with the areas in which your child is playing as the weather warms and they spend more time outdoors.