One month later, questions persist in Hobart drownings
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 15, 2014 3:48PM
Candles remain from a vigil held shortly after the drowning deaths of brothers Terrion and Donel Smith more than a month ago at a water filled put that was dug at in the 4000 block of Montana Street in Hobart. | Karen Caffarini~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 16, 2014 2:02AM
HOBART — One month after two Gary brothers died in a water-filled pit, a police investigation remains incomplete and there has been no sign of further activity at the site since the first days after the tragedy.
“I haven’t seen nobody come here in a long time. No kids, no police, no city officials. Not a thing,” said Roger Hurd, who lives next door to the property in the 4000 block of Missouri Street where the Smith brothers, Terrion, 8, and Donel, 9, drowned June 14 while playing in the pit with other children.
The water-filled pit is gone. The only water on the site this week was a small puddle left over from recent rains.
The sole indication that two boys had died there were a few candles remaining from a vigil held in their honor a couple of days after their deaths.
Hurd, who was outside raking his own yard, said the pit was filled in the day after the drownings by the property’s owner, Randy Goldschmidt.
Police Chief Richard Zormier could not be reached over several days for comment regarding the investigation, but his secretary said it is ongoing. Zormier last month provided some initial findings from the investigation but said it’s a complicated issue that would take more time to complete.
According to Zormier’s preliminary report, various city officials told Goldschmidt on different occasions what procedures he would have had to follow to dig what he said would be a fishing pond. Goldschmidt, however, did not get the necessary permits, records show.
The brothers were with a group of children when Terrion began to panic in the water and Donel tried to help him but then began to panic himself, according to the police report. The report stated that two police officers had to swim to depths of 12 to 20 feet to recover Terrion and Donel from the bottom of the pit.
Hurd said he found it hard to believe the pit was that deep.
“You could see the bottom. I didn’t think it was that deep. It didn’t look like it was more than 3 feet all the way around,” Hurd said.
The report said the pit had a short ledge and sharp drop-off and was deeper than it looked.
Two days after the drownings, city officials arrived at the site to tell Goldschmidt he would need to fence the pit or make it safe, but Goldschmidt had already breached the berm, drained the pit and begun backfilling, the report said.
The initial report also indicated City Attorney Anthony DeBonis was considering legal action against Goldschmidt for knowingly violating ordinances and regulations while creating the pit.
DeBonis earlier said he couldn’t reach a decision on possible litigation until the investigation is complete. DeBonis said there have been no lawsuits or notices of claims filed against the city on the matter.
DeBonis said Tuesday that since the police investigation isn’t yet complete, he has nothing new to report regarding possible litigation filed on behalf of the city.
He said the report should be completed in a matter of days, not weeks.
“They’re tying up some loose ends,” he said.