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Naples Daily News (Florida)
The families of two kids who ended up underwater in two Collier County pools within a couple of hours of each other Monday found vastly different outcomes.
The family of 4-year-old Saijene Kernizan is planning a funeral.
The family of 14-year-old Romario Morales awaits his recovery at Golisano Children's Hospital in Fort Myers.
At 4:47 p.m. Monday, first responders were dispatched to the Immokalee Sports Complex on a medical call for a teenage boy who almost drowned. A lifeguard at the sports complex pulled Romario from the bottom of the pool before first responders got there, according to a Collier County Sheriff's Office report.
The teen was bleeding from his mouth and nose; he was flown to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment of possible internal injuries.
Romario was in good condition Wednesday at Golisano Children's Hospital, according to Pat Dolce, spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Hospital.
"The doctors are examining his lungs to make sure the water in them has cleared," Romario's mother, Sandra Cuyuch, said in Spanish on Wednesday.
Cuyuch, her husband and their two sons were visiting from New Jersey when her son almost drowned. Her younger son was in the children's pool while Romario was in the regular pool, Cuyuch said.
"I was going from one to the other to see them, and when I went to the pool to take a picture of Romario, I didn't see him," she said.
She said she doesn't remember how long it took for someone to realize he was at the bottom of the pool. Romario told his mother he came to in the helicopter on the way to Lee Memorial and thought he was being kidnapped.
"He didn't know what was happening and said he was scared," Cuyuch said. "We thank God he's OK. He told me he didn't realize how deep the pool was before going under."
At 6:12 p.m. Monday, paramedics and Collier Sheriff's Office investigators responded to a call about a child who drowned in a neighbor's pool in East Naples.
According to a Sheriff's Office report, Saijene Kernizan's two older brothers were looking after her Monday evening between the time their mother went to work and their father returned from his job.
The 4-year-old was sleeping on the couch when her mother left. About half an hour later, the younger brother rode his bicycle to a nearby gas station to buy headphones for himself and a bag of chips for his teen brother. The boy who left the house told his brother to look after Saijene, who still was sleeping, the report states.
When the boy returned home, he went straight to his brother's room and didn't notice whether the girl was still in the living room, the report states. He said the headphones didn't work, so he rode his bike back to the gas station to exchange them, according to the report. The boy told investigators he locked the front door the first time he left the house but could not remember whether he locked it the second time he left.
When the younger boy got back home, he noticed Saijene no longer was sleeping on the couch but assumed she went into the teenager's room. The boy watched some videos on an electronic device and noticed his brother made several trips from his room to the kitchen, but he hadn't seen or heard Saijene inside the room, the report states.
The boy asked his brother where their sister was, and the teen said he didn't know. They searched the house and went outside to look for her, the report states. The girl liked to play in puddles when it rained, the brothers told investigators.
When they couldn't find her, they knocked on the doors of two of their neighbors to ask for help looking for her. One of the neighbors found the girl at the bottom of another neighbor's pool and pulled her out with the help of her older brother, according to the report.
The girl's older brother picked her up and took her back to their driveway, where first responders found her.
More children younger than 5 drown in Florida than in any other state, according to the Florida Department of Health.
According to the NCH Safe and Healthy Children's Coalition, drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 4 in Collier County.
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