Two Fresno toddlers who slipped out of their home drown in neighbor’s pool

Police cars line Townsend Avenue in southeast Fresno where two children were found to have died in a drowning in the backyard pool.
Police cars line Townsend Avenue in southeast Fresno where two children were found to have died in a drowning in the backyard pool. rappleton@fresnobee.com

Two children died Monday after escaping their home and wandering to a next-door neighbor’s pool, where they drowned.

The home is on East Heaton Avenue, near the intersection with Villa Avenue, in the Sunnyside neighborhood of southeast Fresno.

The girl is Elizabeth Thao, 2  1/2 years old, and the boy is Jayce Thao, 3 years old, the Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office said.

Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez said the boy and girl woke up sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. They opened a door in their room that leads to the family’s garage. The garage vehicle door was open. The children walked to a neighbor’s house and entered the yard through an open gate, then climbed or squeezed through a smaller gate that was around the pool.

The children’s great-grandmother and several other relatives were home at the time. Both parents had gone to work, Gomez said. The great-grandmother went to check on the kids after 10 a.m. and discovered them missing. The family members searched the area before calling police just before 11 a.m. to report the children missing.

Elizabeth Valle found the children in her pool after police knocked on her door asking permission to search her yard. She said she screamed and jumped into the pool, as did one of the officers. The boy was floating in the water, and the girl was found at the bottom.

Valle said the officers and ambulance workers attempted to revive the kids. The sight of both children out of the pool caused her to burst into tears, and she said she did not remember what happened next.

The kids were found after 11 a.m., Gomez said. They were pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m. Investigators believe they were under water for 15 to 20 minutes.

Valle said this isn’t the first time the kids had gotten into her backyard. Around five or six months ago, she found them unattended in her yard. She walked them back to their house, where their parents apologized but did not seem too concerned, she recalled.

Gomez said the drownings appear to be “a horrible accident,” but an investigator is looking into possible negligence. He cautioned that children this young require constant supervision. If that’s not possible, parents should make sure to secure their rooms while not watching them.

How to help

The family has set up a gofundme account for Jayce and Elizabeth Thao’s funeral expenses.