Two of the three victims in what police are calling an accidental triple drowning were buried without the presence of their parents in Seaford, Del. on July 15.
The parents of Yamoul Dona,7, and Christopher Toto Gabriel,11, were unable to come from Haiti, birthplace of all three drowning victims, to attend the joint funeral on July 15 at 3pm in the Atlanta Road Alliance Church.
“They were unable to get their visas to travel,” said Rev. Peter Smith, pastor of First Church of God in Federalsburg, Md., where both Yamoul and Christopher attended Sunday services and countless youth events.
The two boys, along with Vladimir Petron Jacotin, 12, drowned July 7 in Marshyhope Creek in Federalsburg, Md. None could swim.
“It was very moving and the response was very positive,” said Smith of the two-and-a-half hour service that was attended, he said, by more than 600 people at Atlanta Road Alliance Church, a church popular among the large Haitian community there.
In addition to the boys’ friends, family and teachers, Caroline County School Superintendent Dr. Khalid N. Mumin attended the service.
A candlelight vigil was held in the small town July 14 but the emotional outpouring didn’t end there. Faced with $10,000 in funeral and burial costs, the family turned to their neighbors for help. Their prayers were answered.
“The community paid off the funeral,” said Smith. “They had one family in town that had two little boys in grade school. They sold lemonade and raised $400 in one day.”
At this point, the deaths are still ruled accidental, but Smith says an official report from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore could take up to six weeks.
The Department of Natural Resources Police said that Christopher’s body was found first “behind a group of homes in the 100 block of Old Denton Road,” followed shortly by the discovery of Yamoul who “was a short distance away.” Vladimir was found last further down the creek, officials said.
NRP Capt. Jerry Kirkwood clarified officials’ descriptions of where the bodies were found, stating that all three boys were found in Marshyhope Creek, though buildings on land were used to describe the areas where each body was found.
“We went up the creek by boat. Our officers were in the boat that just happened to be behind a group of homes. All three bodies were found in the water.”
News that the bodies had been found came while the congregation met in the church for Sunday services. The boys were last seen by family members playing basketball in the church parking lot and later, walking towards the creek. According to information given to Smith by family members, none of the boys knew how to swim.
Vladimir’s mother began to panic when she returned home around 10 p.m. July 7 and realized her son wasn’t home. Family members searched for the boys until about 1:30 a.m. when police were notified.
Authorities suspect the youngsters were simply seeking refuge from the 100-degree temperatures that have smothered the eastern U.S. this summer.