New Tampa 1-year-old boy drowns in 5-gallon cleaning bucket

TAMPA — Neighbors on the cul-de-sac where Moncef and Najet Bouazizi raise their seven children know the couple as hardworking people and attentive parents.

The children, six boys and one girl, never strayed far from their mother on days when they would play in the yard, neighbors said.

On Sunday, as firefighters and police swarmed the couple's house at 15903 Layton Court, the tranquil New Tampa community was shocked to learn that the family's youngest son, 1-year-old Mujeeb Bouazizi, had drowned in a 5-gallon bucket in the garage.

The boy was out of his parents' sight for about 10 minutes before he was found upside down in the container, which held a mixture of water and cleaning fluid, according to Tampa police.

Officers responded to a 911 call around 12:45 p.m. and tried to revive the child, who was unresponsive.

He was taken to University Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A friend of the family said the parents were too distraught Sunday to comment on the boy's death. But the news stunned residents of the tree-lined street.

"I don't understand how it could happen, because they're always with each other," said Jodi Pecoraro, who lives next door. The Bouazizis are responsible parents who "cherished" their children, she said.

"Other families have problems, but not this one."

The couple are executives in an investment firm, records show.

Mujeeb was the twin brother of the family's only daughter, neighbors said. The pair turned 1 year old on July 15.

Those who knew the family said they had seen the babies walking. It is not uncommon for babies to begin walking or crawling at about 1 year old, according the Mayo Clinic's website.

With so many children in the house, the parents often let the kids play in the garage and the front yard, Pecoraro said. But they were always supervised.

Natives of Tunisia, in northern Africa, the Bouazizis have few family members in the Tampa area but many friends, neighbors said.

As a parade of emergency vehicles and rescue workers flooded the house Sunday afternoon, next-door neighbor Yolanda Jacques asked if the family needed help.

"They are going to need everybody's help around here," an emergency worker told her. Jacques asked if someone had died. Hearing the answer, she began to cry.

Jacques has lived next door to the Bouazizi family for the better part of a decade and knew the parents and each of the children well. She knew each child's birthday and would bring gifts of balloons, candy or a card on each occasion.

As the family grew, she worried they might move to a bigger house in another community.

"We could not ask for better neighbors," Jacques said. "We all give them our shoulders to cry on."

Hours after the last of the emergency vehicles departed, friends of the family began to trickle back to the vacant house. Moncef Bouazizi returned in a pickup truck, got out and shook hands with one of his neighbors.

They spoke briefly before the grieving father rested both arms on the side of his truck and buried his face in them as he wept.

Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

New Tampa 1-year-old boy drowns in 5-gallon cleaning bucket 07/31/11 [Last modified: Sunday, July 31, 2011 11:29pm]

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