A child died on Sunday after drowning in a man-made pond at the Wat Angkorchum Cambodian Buddhist temple, Harris County, Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
The girl was in a class at the temple before wandering off, Gonzalez said on Twitter. Her mother, who was also at the temple, noticed her daughter was missing and began looking for her, according to the sheriff.
“The girl’s shoes and socks sat on the steps leading down to the pond, but she was gone,” The Houston Chronicle reported. “The mother and several other worshipers jumped in the water, searching desperately for her. Firefighters eventually found her at the bottom of the pond, which is about 6 feet deep.”
Officials “immediately began lifesaving measures and requested a Life Flight to take her to Texas Children’s Hospital,” KSAT reported.
At 8:29 p.m. Sunday, Gonzalez reported the 4-year-old had died.
Cheacosarl Koeuth, a senior religious adviser at the temple told The Chronicle the congregation and everyone involved were “devastated” and “broken hearted.”
“We come here to worship,” he said, according to The Chronicle. “Now this really sad thing has happened.”
Gonzalez said the 4-year-old was “possibly autistic,” which may have played a part in her being near the water, KSAT reported. The girl’s identity has not been released.
Per the Center for Autism Research, children with “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sometimes seem particularly drawn to all kinds of water” and that “drowning is a leading cause of death among children with ASD.”
Here are three tips from the Center for Autism Research:
“Teach water safety at an early age. Water safety includes swim lessons. Lessons for children with special needs can be found at many recreation centers and YMCAs. Be aware: although children may learn to swim, it does not mean they will use this skill if they are frightened or upset.”
“If you have a pool or live near one, be sure there are adequate gates, alarms, locks, and pool covers in good working condition.”
“If your child is drawn to water, complete safety forms with local safety offices and indicate where all possible water sources are located near your home. These can include places where large puddles form after storms.”