Junior Soogrim celebrated his 13th birthday the day before he and his brother Jason, 7, tragically drowned in a pool at an abandoned quarrying site in Valencia on Sunday.
But as his father Martinez Soogrim, 30, grieved on Monday, he called on the police to question everyone who was at the site when his boys drowned, including a man who may have encouraged them to go into the water knowing they could not swim. That man, however, has not been seen since the incident.
Recalling how they celebrated Junior’s birthday at his mother’s Fern Street, Old Valencia Road home on Saturday, the father yesterday said, “We all ate lunch together and Junior, his younger brother Jason and sister Jane cut his birthday cake and put a piece in each others’ mouth. It was a happy time for all of us, as everyone hugged and kissed Junior wishing him a happy birthday.”
Soogrim confirmed that his boys were no swimmers and showed Guardian Media a portable pool at the back of his house, which he said he bought for his children so that they would not get the urge to go and bathe at the pond.
Soogrim said he was heading to his garden to water and salt his pimento pepper field on Sunday when his two sons said they would accompany him. He said while they were at his garden, the brothers left and went to the pond, about a quarter-mile from the garden, unknown to him. Before leaving, however, Jason told his cousin he would be back in 20 minutes.
However, the elder Soogrim said he was soon alerted by neighbours screaming for help who told him the boys had disappeared under the water. Soogrim learned later that the boys had joined neighbours and their children to bathe in the pond, which is 200ft in depth.
Soogrim said relatives and neighbours rushed to the pond where they found relatives of the neighbours standing on the bank looking confused. He said he and his brothers dived into the pond in search of his sons.
The boys’ uncle, Jerry, found them at the bottom of the pond on top of one another, with the younger Jason on Junior’s back.
“They cannot swim but Junior made an attempt to pull Jason out but failed and apparently both of them went underwater and never surfaced,” Soogrim told Guardian Media.
Soogrim said when the boys were retrieved they were lifeless.
An EHS ambulance was contacted and they asked the Soogrims to see if they could perform CPR on the boys until they arrived. However, Soogrim said by then his sons were “already gone.”
Neighbours who live close to the pond told police they heard an adult telling the boys to go into the water to see how deep it was. However, yesterday they said they had not seen the man since then and believe he was hiding from the police.
When Guardian Media visited the Soogrims’ Tapana Road home on Monday the entire family was in grief.
Their younger sister Jane said, “My two brothers drowned. I have no brothers now.”
As night fell, the boys’ cousins were seen lighting flambeaux to prepare for a wake.