Two 1-year-old girls drowned in a backyard swimming pool at a day care facility in San Jose, California, on Monday.
“This is the type of call that’s the worst that a parent can receive,” Steven Aponte, San Jose Police Department public information officer, told reporters on Tuesday.
Aponte said police and the fire department were called to the scene in San Jose’s Almaden neighborhood for a welfare check just after 9 a.m. on Monday. They were responding to a report of three children falling into the pool. Two of the children were in severe medical distress.
All three children were taken to the hospital, where the two girls were pronounced dead. The third child was cleared with non-life threatening injuries.
Prior to the incident, the Happy Happy Home Daycare facility was cited six times by state inspectors since it was first licensed in 2021. In pre-licensing inspections, officials raised concerns about the potential for children to access the pool where the deaths occurred.
Investigators with the San Jose Police Department’s homicide unit are leading the investigation. Aponte anticipates the investigation will last several months.
According to records from the California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing division, inspectors raised concerns about the gaps at both ends of the fence enclosing the pool during pre-licensing inspections in 2020 and 2021. A license was granted to the facility after another inspection in January 2021, when changes were made that satisfied the conditions for operation.
A facility evaluation report from January this year noted that the pool was fully fenced with a hard mesh material.
“The fence is least five feet high and is constructed so that the fence does not obscure the pool from view,” the report said. “The gate swings away from the pool, self-closes and has a self-latching device, located no more than six inches from the top of the gate.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 — and most of those drownings happen in swimming pools.
“Obviously the children had access to the pool area. How and when that occurred, I’m still not certain,” Aponte told reporters.
Aponte said he could not yet release information on whether the owners of the daycare, Nina Fathizadeh and Shanin Shenas, are in custody.
It has not yet been determined whether staff at the day care will be charged. A representative from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office said they are still reviewing the case.
State records show that Fathizadeh and Shenas first sought a state license to run the facility in 2020. The owners of the day care did not respond to NBC News requests for comment.
The day care had a capacity of eight children and could take care of up to four infants at a time. At an annual inspection in January this year, inspectors issued five citations. One was issued because five infants were under their care, exceeding their maximum capacity.
Other citations that year included failures to perform disaster drills, a lack of documentation of the monitoring of sleeping infants and failures to perform criminal record clearance on an adult assistant.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services declined comment.
“This investigation and the incident as a whole will be an eye opener to families, not just here in San Jose, but nationwide — to really do their due diligence and investigate (their daycare facilities),” Aponte said.