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11-year-old girl drowns in Tampa pool

TAMPA — An 11-year-old girl drowned Wednesday afternoon in a city pool staffed with three lifeguards.

Just before 2 p.m., police said, children in the Cyrus Greene Park pool noticed Britney Mills had not surfaced while swimming underwater in the deep end, which has a depth of more than 6 feet.

It's unknown how long the Potter Avenue Elementary fifth- grader was at the bottom, police said.

One of the lifeguards dived in, pulled her out and performed CPR with the help of a Tampa police officer in the area for a safety check.

She was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about half an hour later, said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

It's unclear how an 11-year-old could drown with several lifeguards watching the pool. There was no sign of foul play, horsing around or injury, Davis said.

About 30 to 40 children from the Jackson Heights Community Center were in the pool, located at 2101 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., when Britney went under.

Britney went to the summer program at the community center every day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., said her aunt, Sirena Mills. Her niece knew how to swim, and did so frequently, she said.

At least one lifeguard is supposed to be on duty for every 25 people on deck or in the water, Tampa parks and recreation spokeswoman Linda Carlo said.

The 25-yard pool has six swim lanes and a tube slide. Its maximum capacity is 63 swimmers.

The incident is still under investigation. An autopsy is pending.

Britney had friends all over her Jackson Heights neighborhood, Sirena Mills said, and she enjoyed being on the step team and cheerleading squad at the community center.

"It seemed like every day she comes to my house and knocks on my door and asks to use the Internet," she remembered. Too young for MySpace and Facebook, Britney preferred playing games on Disney.com.

The girl's mother, Arnita Mills, was devastated at the loss of her youngest child, Sirena Mills said. Her older children, 15-year-old Gabriel and 14-year-old Prisca, were crying when their aunt last saw them at the hospital.

"They were just in shock," she said. "They couldn't believe that she was gone. They just saw her this morning."

A woman who answered the phone for the park pool declined to comment.

Sirena Mills said she doesn't believe the pool has the sole responsibility for the accident.

"It wasn't just the lifeguards. I know there was a lot of kids in the pool and you can't keep an eye on everyone. But she went up there with the center. Where were they?"

Ileana Morales can be reached at imorales@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

11-year-old girl drowns in Tampa pool 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 9:40pm]
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