MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Loved ones are pushing officials for answers about a summer camp employee’s death following an incident at a recreation center in Miami Beach.
Speaking with reporters on Friday, the family of Peniel Janvier pleaded for information about the strange circumstances surrounding what they described as the 28-year-old’s drowning.
“My son is a great son. He’s my eyes, my heart and everything,” said his mother, Nicole Mathurin.
“The family still has no answers as to how it happened, why it happened and what the circumstances of what did happen,” said Douglass McCarron, one of the attorneys representing Janvier’s family.
The incident happened on Aug. 16, when Janvier was playing with children at the Scott Rakow Youth Center during celebrations at the center’s outdoor pool on the last day of camp.
Miami Beach Police were called to the center after Janvier was observed to be in distress in the pool, and after a while, several coaches and lifeguards took him out of the pool.
Janvier was rushed to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he was placed on a ventilator. He spent 10 days in critical condition until he was taken off the ventilator and died on Aug. 26.
The family’s attorneys said Janvier was not on duty at the time of the incident, and his injuries were very serious.
Attorneys said doctors performed a CAT scan and found extensive brain damage.
“We know, just based on the injuries, that he must have been submerged in the water for quite some time,” McCarron. “We’re not talking about 30 seconds to a minute; we’re taking about 10, 15 minutes.”
“The possibilities that the lifeguards were on their cellphones for a period of time, that possibly these young children had to pull them, pull P.J. out of the pool, what a horrible thing for this family,” said attorney Marc Brumer.
Family members asked people to come forward with any pictures or video from that day.
“Please, I plead with the public, anyone that has seen something, recording, I know, please come forward,” said Mathurin.
They also requested to see surveillance video, if there is any recorded, so they can get a better idea of what truly happened to Janvier.
“We understand, from what we’ve heard, that there was a lot of people on the pool deck,” said McCarron.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department said a pool lifeguard on duty has been terminated.
A second lifeguard on the pool deck, who was a seasonal employee, was also terminated, and a part-time recreation leader was suspended pending a hearing.
“If they were [let go or suspended] as a result of this incident, well then, I think that that speaks for itself,” said McCarron, “and maybe at least the city officials know what happened, and I think the family has a right to know what happened as well.”
“I’ve not been able to eat or sleep for 17 days,” said Mathurin. “Please, somebody, anyone, please. My son was a great kid.”
City of Miami Beach spokesperson Melissa Berthier released a statement that reads, “Our first priority is supporting his family with every available resource during this tragedy. P.J. was an outstanding employee who truly left a lasting impact on everyone he worked with. His smile was contagious, and he cared deeply for the youth in our recreation programs.”
Miami Beach Police detectives are continuing their investigation into what led up to the drowning incident, in addition to reviewing the case with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
No criminal charges are expected.
Friday afternoon, the office of Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber issued a statement that reads, “While the matter is under investigation, nothing can change the fact that P.J. was very much beloved by those who worked with him and knew him. It’s a great loss obviously to his family and our City. It is my expectation that after a full review all the facts will be shared with the community and P.J.’s family.”
Several children were present at the youth center and witnessed Janvier’s drowning. The city is offering grief counseling resources to the children and staff of the center.
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