'He was a sweetheart': Montgomery County family remembers 3-year-old who drowned in neighborhood pool

The family of a three-year-old who drowned in a pool over the weekend in Montgomery County is mourning the loss of the toddler, remembering a life that was cut too short.

The tragic case started as a call for a missing person. Family never thought it would come to such a heartbreaking end.

According to police, the mother of 3-year-old Ace called 911 just before midnight on Friday, telling officers that her child was missing.

When they arrived at her Rockville apartment complex, officers with Montgomery County police found the 3-year-old in the neighborhood pool. he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Ace’s family described him as an adventurous courageous little boy. They say he also had autism. 

Family and friends stood just steps away from that community pool on Elmcroft Court Monday night for a balloon release.

Red and blue balloons filled the sky as people yelled out Ace's name, some crying and others clapping, all celebrating his life.

RELATED: Missing 3-year-old found floating in neighborhood pool in Maryland

His grandfather and aunt told FOX 5 that she was an amazing child.

"Energetic, bright smile, brave. I'm going to miss everything about him. Coming to my house, messing up my house with his twin sister," his aunt, Allesha Alexander said.

"He was a sweetheart little child. He was, he was just that. The [autism] did not describe who he was," Ace’s grandfather Alvin Alexander said.

Montgomery County police want families to know that the department has an entire unit devoted to people with special needs and call 911 as soon as a child or adult turns up missing.

Officer Laurie Reyes with the Montgomery County Police Department unit that specializes in helping those with autism, intellectual developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s and dementia says drowning is the leading cause of premature death for those diagnosed with autism - especially with young children.

"There are many reasons — it could be the draw due to sensory wanting to satisfy a sensory overload, but the bottom line is, we are not quite sure why individuals go to bodies of water. Each and every case is different, but that again stresses the reason for never feel like you have to search for your loved one on your own," Reyes said. "Make sure you call 911. And I really want to stress this can happen to the very best of caregivers."

Again, police remind all families that time is not on your side when a loved one goes missing: call 911 immediately.