Pit where boys drowned is drained, filled; police continue investigation

2014-06-17T00:00:00Z 2014-06-17T19:14:19Z Pit where boys drowned is drained, filled; police continue investigationRob Earnshaw rob.earnshaw@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HOBART | The water-filled pit where two young Gary siblings drowned Saturday night was drained and filled Monday as police continued their investigation into the case.

Donel Smith, 9, and Terrion Smith, 8, died Saturday night after going into water that had filled the pit on a property in the 4000 block of Missouri Street, the Lake County coroner's office said.

Tatiana Smith said her boys jumped into the water at the urging of other kids playing on the property. When Terrion went under, Donel jumped in to save him, she said.

Police Chief Richard Zormier said the officers had to swim to depths greater than 12 feet to retrieve the boys, who were at the bottom and unresponsive.

Both were taken by ambulance to St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, where they were pronounced dead.

Zormier said "there are a number of witnesses to interview and issues to investigate" in the case.

"We will have two seasoned police investigators working the case to bring closure," he said.

Zormier said the location of the property where the drowning occurred, which is just west of Interstate 65 and south of Ridge Road, has had some man-made alterations and earth-moving on the site.

A neighboring property owner said the property used to have some sand dunes on it, but the owner has been excavating the parcel since April 2013.

Zormier said the evidence technicians from the Lake County Sheriff's Department assisted in photographing and documenting the scene before it was released from police control after the incident.

Excavation equipment was on site Monday morning as water was removed from the pit. Hobart police confirmed the contractor who owns the property is making improvements to the location since the incident. He did not elaborate.

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