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Mom, stepfather grapple with drowning death of Largo boy, 3

Evan Henry, 3, \uFEFFdied Tuesday in a Largo pool. In this photo, the fan of Bob the Builder is 2.

Family photo

Evan Henry, 3, \uFEFFdied Tuesday in a Largo pool. In this photo, the fan of Bob the Builder is 2.

LARGO — Surrounded by her son's photographs, coloring books and stacks of folded pajamas, Amy Hari had only one question Thursday as she chose clothes for her 3-year-old son's burial.

How?

How could her son have drowned when his stepfather was standing 10 feet away? How did he manage to fall off the steps of the pool? How did he slip into the water, without a splash or a sound?

"My husband, he just looked over, and he saw my beautiful boy floating facedown at the top of the pool," said Hari, 32.

Evan Henry drowned in the pool outside his family's apartment Tuesday afternoon in the Autumn Chase complex. Amy was at her job at a retirement home when it happened. Her husband, Jason Hari, 30, had been standing in the pool with the child.

Largo police are ruling the drowning an accident, Lt. Mike Loux said.

Jason Hari tried to explain. He had been in the pool with Evan for several hours.

The couple's 4-month-old girl, Angel, was sitting in a baby seat under an awning nearby. Evan was standing on the steps. Jason turned his back for what seemed like just a few moments, propped his elbows on the edge of the pool and chatted with a neighbor.

It was only a couple of minutes, he said.

"I didn't ever hear anything," he said. "Evan was right next to me."

Jason and Amy Hari are still grappling with the senselessness of it all, trying to understand how they lost the bouncing youngster with curly brown hair and a toothy grin, the boy who adored Spider-Man and Bob the Builder.

But they have a message to parents who might not realize how easily and quickly a child can slip under the surface: never, ever take your eyes off a kid in the pool.

"I don't know what the excuse was. But (my husband) was responsible," she said.

In the days since her son died, Amy Hari has tried to deal with his death in the only way she knows how: by gazing at the hundreds of photos she has of him, by holding his nursery school art projects, by paging through his baby book.

And she doesn't know how she will ever forgive her husband. They have been married for only four months.

Thursday afternoon, they walked out to the pool together as Jason described, for the umpteenth time, exactly what he remembered happening. Once again, he said, he didn't hear a thing.

She listened quietly as he explained. Then, without a word, she picked up a pool chair and walked to the steps of the pool. Without taking off her shoes, she waded in until she reached the bottom step. She held the chair held in front of her. Then, she released it.

It floated for a moment, then slipped beneath the surface — without a sound.

"There was no splash," Amy said. "You were too far away."

The funeral will take place at noon Saturday at the Abbey Affordable Cremation and Funeral Services, 12541 Ulmerton Road, Largo.

News researcher Caryn Baird contributed reporting. Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4224.

.Fast facts

Florida leads nation in child drownings

Drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1-4 in Florida, and the state's drowning death rate among children ages 1-4 is the highest in the nation.

In 2008, the latest statistics available, 479 Florida residents drowned and 380 others were hospitalized for near drownings. Children ages 1-4 made up 13 percent of the deaths and 47 percent of the hospitalizations.

Mom, stepfather grapple with drowning death of Largo boy, 3 07/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 11:00pm]
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