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9-month-old dies after water rescue

The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office confirmed Tuesday morning that a 9-month-old girl whose stroller rolled into a retention pond Monday afternoon died less than two hours later after being pulled from the water.

Bella Shi was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m. Monday, according to Andrea Hatten, the coroner’s office chief administrator.

Emergency crews were dispatched to the 8400 block of Windy Harbor Way in the Villages of Providence subdivision around 1:55 p.m. Monday. The baby’s grandparents and two children were walking with the infant when the stroller somehow rolled down an embankment and into the pond, according to township officials.

Responding the scene at 2:03 p.m., crews searched the murky water for 20 minutes before finding Bella still strapped to the stroller about 10 to 15 feet from the edge of the pond in water that was approximately 10 feet deep, according to Barb Wilson, spokeswoman for the township.

Crews performed CPR and rescue breathing before taking the child to Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus, where she was taken by helicopter to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

Bella spent 30 minutes in water that was between 30 to 40 degrees before her stroller was located, Wilson said.

West Chester Police Department ruled the death an accidental one and charges will not be pressed, she said.

Stormwater retention basins are regulated by the county and their depth is unlike that of a pool, as such basins are roughly graded bodies of water, Wilson said.

“They have to retain a certain amount of water …. but the depth could all vary,” she said. “It could be five feet at one end and it could be 20 at another.”

This is not the first retention pond drowning that has occurred in the township. In June 2007, a 45-year-old man drowned after attempting to retrieve a remote-control boat from a pond bordered by northbound Interstate 75 and Windisch Road.

A person venturing into such a body of water could end up trapped by sludge amassed at the bottom, Wilson said.

“People need to understand those are not safe for swimming in or wading in, that the basins are very irregular,” she said. “It’s like any pond. Without knowing where you’re going, you shouldn’t just jump into any body of water.”

Any warning signs or protective measures fall under the jurisdiction of a subdivision’s homeowner’s association, Wilson said.

A neighbor who called 911 said she heard crying and screaming from beside the pond, but could not talk to the family because they did not speak English and could not enter the water because she was unable to swim.

“I’m knocking at every house to get help,” she told a dispatcher. “I’m so scared.”

A second caller who dialed 911 at 1:59 p.m. said she heard the screams and came running to the scene. She said an 18-year-old girl was entering the water but that no one knew where to look.

“They don’t know exactly around the area that she is,” the woman told dispatchers. “There’s a girl standing in the pond right now. She’s kind of looking down. She doesn’t really know where to look.”

Neighbors told the Journal-News on Tuesday that they are discussing what can be done to enhance safety around the ponds and how they can to help cover funeral expenses for the girl’s parents, who work at a Chinese restaurant they own while grandparents serve as primary caregivers for the children.

They said the community is a close-knit one and that this is the first time there has been an incident of this nature.

“It was just an unfortunate accident,” said Lori Trammell, who lives several doors down from the family and walks down to the pond each week. “There was no neglect involved. I don’t think it had anything to do with people not paying attention.

“I think now we’ll be more be aware that there are dangers involved.”

A prayer vigil and memorial service are scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Life Changers Church, 7474 Morris Road, Fairfield Twp.

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