Five children at a D.C. day care where a 23-month-old boy drowned in a backyard pool in June had been left unsupervised while the provider was running errands and the adult she left in charge was indoors, a city investigation has found.
The day-care provider’s sister, who lives a few doors away, was supposed to watch the children, but she left them alone in a back yard with an inflatable pool filled with water the morning of June 13, a report says. Investigators said the sister, who had gone inside the home to get a baby seat, had not been trained in safety rules and was “not a qualified backup caregiver.”
The toddler, Stokely Malcolm Andrews, either went into the water or fell into the pool, police and other officials said. A 10-year-old who had been visiting found him floating face down at 11:20 a.m., even as other youngsters continued to play. An adult who also was visiting called 911 and tried CPR, but Stokely died at 11:54 a.m. at Children’s National Medical Center. He was 12 days shy of his second birthday.
The investigatory report was obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.
Stokely’s parents, Mari and Malcolm Andrews, who live in Upper Marlboro, Md., sued the day-care provider, Diane Gallmon, for $3 million, alleging negligence. Gallmon, who ran Diane’s Child Care at a rowhouse in the 300 block of 17th Street NE, has not responded to the suit; a hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1 in D.C. Superior Court.
Diane Gallmon does not have an attorney listed in court records and calls to her home on Thursday were not answered or returned. Her sister, Shirley Gallmon, could not be reached for comment. Neither sister faces criminal charges in connection with the drowning.
The Andrews were married in 2012; she already had two children, and the couple tried two years for a third. They had trouble and had all but given up when a boy was born on June 25, 2015. “Stokely was our miracle baby,” Malcolm Andrews said of his first biological son. “We had given up hope on being parents again.”
Malcolm Andrews was named after Malcolm X and his brother after Marcus Garvey. Stokely was named after Stokely Carmichael, continuing the line of civil rights leaders. “Our names had a legacy behind them,” Malcolm Andrews said. “They were all leaders who made an impact on the world. That’s what I wanted for Stokely … We had high hopes for him.”
Malcolm Andrews, who works for Verizon, described his son as a “beautifully, incredibly handsome boy who loved helping people. If he found something, instead of putting it in his mouth, he would walk over and give it to me.” He said Stokely was “full of hugs and kisses” and went to bed every night being read the book “Goodnight Moon.”
Mari Andrews, who works in human resources at the University of Maryland at College Park, said she wants her son’s legacy to be tightening the rules for day-care centers. “We don’t want another parent to go through the pain and loss that we have,” she said.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which regulates day-care centers in the District and prepared the report on the incident, revoked Gallmon’s license. She can reapply after three years. In 2014, that same agency honored Gallmon for having been an early-learning provider for 25 years. The medical examiner’s office ruled Stokely’s death accidental.
The incident occurred about 11:25 a.m. in a neighborhood near Eastern High School. D.C. police at the time made few details public. Gallmon advertised her day care for children ages 1 through 4, including those with special needs.
D.C. officials said Gallmon had been licensed for up to six youngsters — two infants and four of school age. Pools are allowed at day-care centers in the District. The city requires adult one-to-one supervision for toddlers 36 months and under when a pool is being used.
“A Licensee shall maintain constant and active supervision when any child is in or around water,” the regulations state. The District also requires written permission from parents or guardians to allow children to be in water more than one foot deep.
The investigation into the June 13 death revealed Diane Gallmon was not “physically present at the facility.” That morning, the report says, she had left to run errands. Rules state she must leave the children supervised by a qualified substitute. But the report says Gallmon’s sister, Shirley Gallmon, was not qualified because she lacked health and safety training, such as CPR and water safety, and had not been subjected to a required criminal-background check.
Investigators also found Diane Gallmon failed to complete mandatory water-safety training, which includes being certified as a lifeguard or a water-safety instructor by the American Red Cross.
The report faults both Gallmons for leaving the children unsupervised. Rules require children be “within sight and sound” of a caretaker at all times and “shall not be left alone in any room, outdoors, or in vehicles, even momentarily, without staff present.”
As for wading pools, the District requires they be cleaned and drained daily, and “stored in a location that is inaccessible to the enrolled children unless qualified adults are present.” According to the report, Diane Gallmon told investigators that the pool was covered and tied when she left to run errands. But investigators reported finding the cover on the ground next to the pool and “the ties were not located.”
Shirley Gallmon told investigators she left the children alone in the back yard to retrieve a baby seat from inside the rowhouse, according to the report. While inside, Shirley Gallmon said she opened the front door to two guests, her 28-year-old niece and her niece’s 10-year-old daughter. The daughter found the child face down in the pool and ran back inside. The niece picked Stokely out of the pool and administered CPR on a patio table.
Investigators said they immediately removed the children from the house and notified their parents. Their names were not provided in the report.
Three days later, Diane Gallmon sent a letter to the parents informing them of the day-care center’s closure. “Please pray for the family of our beloved [name deleted]. We are all heartbroken from this loss.”