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Coroner rules boy's death as accidental drowning

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BATON ROUGE - The coroner's office released a preliminary autopsy report Tuesday which ruled the death of a Baton Rouge child found submerged in a hole was accidental.

Parish Coroner Beau Clark said 4-year-old Jassiah Clark's death was due to drowning and hypothermia. The child, who was reported missing Saturday night, was found by searchers Monday night in a water-filled hole near his home.

A Baton Rouge Police spokesperson said searchers had likely checked the hole already, but the murky water obscured the boy's body until a detective searched the hole with a flashlight.

"It did not appear to be a hole there, dirt was there, it just looked like dirt was there and water was sitting on top of there," said Lesly Reed, the boys aunt.

Bryan Harmon, the interim director of the parish Department of Public Works, said the site where the hole was located was part of an old sewer pump station which had been filled in and sealed off in September. He told News 2 that the contractor who worked on the site filled the hole with cement, sand, and "flowable fill" in order to seal it, and that the project was finished up to code. He said the agency had photos of the hole which he described as solidly filled in and graded over.

Harmon said he believes heavy rains washed out an area near the old pumping station, which also washed away the material inside the hole. He said inspectors who went back to the site would have checked the pumping station itself, but not the area where the hole was.

"I'm pissed, I'm numb right now, and I feel like it was a big negligence on the city's behalf," said Reed. "I feel like they are 100 percent liable for my nephew's death."

Clark's mother reported her son missing Saturday night. Brittni Clark reported that she noticed her son wasn't playing in their yard around noon, and relatives combed the area for him before contacting police.

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