In a horrific accident, three members of an Indian American family drowned in their backyard swimming pool of their house, in East Brunswick, NJ, on Monday.
The East Brunswick Police Department and Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office identified the victims as Bharat Patel, 62, his daughter-in-law Nisha Patel, 33, and her 8-year-old daughter.
The manner of death was accidental and the result of drowning, the county Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday, reported CNN.
The family had moved into the home just 20 days earlier, police said.
“This is a devastating day for our entire community and we are working to determine exactly what happened,” said East Brunswick Police Chief Frank LoSacco.
Monday afternoon, police received a call from a neighbor who heard screaming, police Lt. Frank Sutter told CNN. Officers arrived at the home and found the victims unresponsive in a pool.
The home is located at 43 Clearview Road, reported NJ.com. The victims were pronounced dead shortly after being found.
There was another family member living in the house, but authorities didn’t say how that person was related to the victims, reported CNN.
Fox News reported authorities ruled out electrical problems resulting in the drowning deaths.
Investigators spoke with the electrical contractor at the East Brunswick home with sources reportedly telling WABC they believed there may have been an electrical issue in or near the pool, leading to the deaths.
None of the three family members who drowned knew how to swim in what has been classified as a tragic accident, authorities said, reported NJ.com, later in the week when new details emerged.
The above-ground pool was mostly shallow at 3½ feet deep, but there was a portion of the pool that was 7 feet deep and it “doesn’t appear that the victims knew how to swim,” official sources were quoted as saying.
The Patels moved into their home within the past month, a neighbor told NJ Advance Media. A pool company had recently been to the home to open it up for the season.
Aquatic safety consultant Michael Oostman has investigated hundreds of drownings across the country and said what happened in East Brunswick is rare and the large majority of drownings happen when children or non-swimmers are unsupervised, reported the local affiliate of ABC News.
“Any body of water has the opportunity to take someone’s life,” he said. “The message I want to get across today while we talk is supervision is critical in and around any body of water that you’re going to be swimming within.”
Oostman also said to make sure you have a certified electrician and a certified pool inspector check out your pool and its surroundings, reported Action News.
“If there was a light, for example, that the bonding on the electrical cord came undone or if the grounding didn’t work properly and that current was put into the swimming pool or onto a metal device. Sometimes we’ll see that in railings or ladders that can become electrocuted, and then anyone that touches that would certainly experience the full brunt of the current,” he said.
“Making sure please, please, please that we are supervising children and anyone when they’re in a body of water, in particular a backyard swimming pool,” he said.