As rescue workers tried to revive her 2-year-old daughter, Sandra Michaud waited frantically outside the ambulance for some word.
When a Pasco sheriff's deputy finally approached her with news, Michaud stepped back, terrified. "No, no, no," Michaud said, clutching both sides of her head.
She jumped into a car with another woman and they followed the ambulance to Community Hospital of New Port Richey, where her daughter, Katlyn, was pronounced dead.
About 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Michaud, 33, had found Katlyn unresponsive in the small pool behind her home.
About 10 minutes earlier, she had given Katlyn something to eat and gotten on the phone, said Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. At some point, Michaud discovered the toddler missing and the house's rear sliding glass door open.
The child safety fence had been temporarily removed for repairs being made on the pool, Doll said. Tuesday morning, the rolled-up mesh fence leaned against the house along with what appeared to be pool furniture.
As sheriff's deputies inspected the house and pool, neighbors stood by, stunned by the news.
"My daughter plays with their daughters. She's going to be devastated," said Marc Bernstein, who lives across the street from the Michauds' home on Night Owl Court. "I'm devastated myself."
Bernstein said Michaud lives with her husband and their other daughter, who is about 5 years old. The family moved into the new subdivision during the middle of last year, Bernstein said.
"Sandy is a great mother," he said. "Everything she did in that house was for the kids. She moved from a smaller house to give them more room here."
County records show Michaud was issued a permit to build the pool last September. Pettit Pools of Pinellas is listed as the contractor. A call there Tuesday afternoon was not returned.
Bernstein said a subcontractor had put in the pool's deck but the work needed redoing.
"It was bubbling up," he said. "Like old paint on metal."
He said a subcontractor had taken the child safety fence down Monday in order to do the work. They were supposed to return Tuesday to finish, Bernstein said, and the Sheriff's Office reported.
"Unbelievable, one day without the damn fence up," Bernstein said.
"Two seconds with a (toddler) and they're out of your sight."
_ Steve Thompson covers crime in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is sthompsonsptimes.com.