Child’s fall into DC park water grate sparks safety concerns

A D.C. mother is raising safety concerns about city parks after her 6-year-old son fell down an unsecured water filtration system Monday.

On Tuesday, FOX 5 uncovered additional safety hazards at Marvin Gaye Park. 

READ MORE: DC police teaming up with federal officials to combat gun violence in the District

Lisa Mueller was with her son, Ernesto, near the splash park on Division Ave. when he walked over to what looked like a manhole cover.

"I yelled, ‘Hey, don’t touch that,’ but I didn’t actually think it would open," said Mueller. "And apparently he didn’t either because he just lifted it and it popped up. And I honestly don’t know how this happened because it all happened so quickly, but he fell in feet first and just disappeared."

Mueller said fortunately her son is tall enough that when he lifted his hands, she was able to pull him out. 

She said she called 911 and took a video of what it looked like in the filtration system to spread the word about what happened. 

READ MORE: High demand, low inventory: Renters face tough housing market in DC area

A police report says responding officers believe someone intentionally forced the cover off and that the screw holes were stripped. 

By Tuesday, D.C.’s Department of General Services and Department of Parks and Recreation sent a crew to secure the cover. 

But Tuesday evening, FOX 5 found that right next to that, a plastic cover that says ‘water meter’ was also not secure, revealing a hole at least two feet deep when moved. 

Nearby, the padlock was off for the water park’s electric panel allowing access to switches.

FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts called DGS to report and send photos of the issues and ask about locking the panel. A spokesperson said not to touch it. 

READ MORE: Smithsonian to end reservation requirement for most museums

Earlier in the day DGS and DPR issued a joint statement on the incident saying:

"Safety is our number one priority, and maintaining safe play spaces is paramount in that commitment. Within 24 hours of being notified of the faulty mechanical cover, DGS and DPR swiftly coordinated to dispatch a crew to replace the cover and reinforce it into the ground. We are grateful the resident is unharmed and apologize for this upsetting incident."

Mueller spent the day checking out other splash parks in the city.

"The negligence is a little disturbing," she said. "There are other spray parks all around that are not secured too. So somebody’s dropped the ball."

At Lafayette Pointer Rec Center in Northwest, we found another unlocked, open hatch nearby a splash pad, beyond an unlocked gate.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

"We’re really struggling with gun violence in the city and that’s a priority and that has a complicated solution with a lot of political debate. But this does not have that. It’s hardware from Home Depot," said Mueller.