A young brother and sister were found submerged in a neighbor's backyard pool in Central Islip Sunday afternoon, the victims of an apparent drowning, Suffolk police said.
Police identified the children as Ralph Knowles, 5, and Sharon Knowles, 7, who lived in a home that shared a backyard fence with the neighbor where the pool is located on Half Mile Road.
The brother and sister were found in the 4-foot-deep pool sometime after officers responded to a 911 call reporting the pair missing about 3:30 p.m., officials said.
Officers arrived and searched the area surrounding the children's Naples Avenue home before Sgt. Michael Alfano and Officer Frank Rooney discovered them in the pool about 4:30 p.m. after seeing a shoe floating on the water, police said. The officers jumped in "and in a short period of time lifted out the lifeless body of Sharon Knowles," Det. Sgt. Edward Fandrey of the homicide unit said during a news conference Sunday night outside the Half Mile Road home.
They pulled Ralph Knowles from the pool a few minutes after his sister, Fandrey said.
The children were taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where they were pronounced dead, police said. It was not known if the pool included a cover. Town of Islip officials arrived after the children had been discovered and cited the pool's homeowner for improperly installing a backyard fence. The homeowner, who was not identified, could not be reached for comment. The children's uncle, Henry Valentine, 32, of Jamaica, Queens, was with relatives at Southside Hospital Sunday. He identified their mother as Tia Knowles and said she is devastated.
"She's not doing good at all. She's trying to maintain it," said Valentine, adding that Sharon's birthday was approaching. "She was about to turn eight. . . . For me to wake up to this is not good."
Neighbors at the scene standing behind yellow police tape sectioning off the brown Naples Avenue house said the children were first reported missing by their mother to fellow neighbors around 2:30 p.m.
One neighbor who didn't give her name said she drove in her car several blocks looking for the children. She said she urged the mother to report the children missing to police.
Diane Richardson, who lives on Naples Avenue, which runs parallel to Half Mile Road, said neighbors told her that a young boy and girl who live on the block jumped the fence of a home nearby and somehow got into the pool.
She said she doesn't know the parents of the children, but that the youngsters are often seen playing outside.
"You see them playing. They're only little guys," she said.
Neighbors say a third, older child lives at the home, but was not in the pool. Police did not say how many people lived in the home, which is owned by Suburban Housing Development & Research Inc., a Bay Shore-based nonprofit that provides housing to homeless families. It purchased the home in 2001. The mortgage is held by the Town of Islip's Community Development Agency.
David Hilgendorpf, executive director at Suburban Housing, confirmed his company's ownership of the home and said the current tenants -- whom he declined to identify by name, but said were a woman and children -- have lived in the house for roughly 14 months.