His body was discovered just 30 yards from his home.
A desperate search for a missing Florida toddler came to a tragic end on Monday when he was discovered in a septic tank just 30 yards from his home.
On Sunday afternoon, Putnam County Sheriff's Office issued a missing child alert after one-year-old Jose Lara vanished while playing in his backyard with his sister; his mother had taken the sibling inside to wash up, but when she returned — the little brother was gone.
A massive search team including helicopters, drones, body-heat detectors, bloodhounds and 120 officers and firefighters descended on the Crescent City home and began combing a 2 square mile area, but for 24 hours, there was simply no sign of him.
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Then one officer suggested draining an underground septic tank — and the grim discovery was made
'"Its not an uncommon practice in a situation like this when there's a child missing to search the septic tank as well," Sheriff H.D. Gator DeLoach told News4Jax.
"Actually one of our leadership team members that made the call to drain the septic tank. At that point it was unfortunately when we discovered the child's body."
This is a cancellation to the Florida Missing Child Alert. With sadness, the child has been found deceased. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Putnam County community. If you would like further info, please call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, 386-329-0801. https://t.co/199YnXDof3— FDLE (@fdlepio) March 28, 2022 @fdlepio
According to investigators, the boy appeared to have stepped on a piece of rotted plywood that covered the opening, and fell through.
The search party never noticed it because the area was covered in dirt and overgrown weeds that appeared undisturbed, while the sheet of wood had somehow sprang back into place after giving way.
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The family had moved to Florida from Honduras a little over a year ago.
While police believe it was a tragic accident, an investigation is ongoing into whether criminal negligence charges may apply.
"There's nothing to indicate at this point that there was any type of foul play suspected, but it is still an active investigation," the Sheriff said.
"These things happen in just a blink of an eye," he added. "It's terribly unfortunate what's happened here, but it serves as a reminder to all of us who have children, there's never an opportunity to leave them unsupervised or to take your eyes of them. Otherwise something unfortunately tragic like this might happen."
Attorney Kay Harper Williams, who represented the family of Amari Harley, a 3-year-old boy who drowned in an unsecured septic tank at a Jacksonville park in 2017, told the outlet that these types of drownings happen all the time across the country — and each of them is preventable.
"This is another completely preventable tragedy," she said. "If it is true that the septic tank opening was covered with plywood, that would not meet any standards and it should have minimally had a high-density plastic cover and those covers are less than 50 bucks."