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Richmond Hill girl drowns in backyard pool

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Pricilla Garcia's favorite treat after coming home from a day at school was to have her grandmother, Julia Garcia, fix her a cup of hot chocolate.

Garcia said her granddaughter, 6, would run up to her immediately after she walked into the house, give her a hug and then ask for her usual treat.

"All the time she was happy," Garcia said Monday.

But tragedy struck the household at 87-63 117th St. Saturday when Pricilla drowned in the family's backyard pool. She had followed her severely autistic brother Joshua into the pool after he escaped through a window from the living room.

Pricilla was pronounced dead Sunday at New York Weill Cornell Center in Manhattan after doctors tried in vain to save the little girl.

Garcia, who shared the house with her two grandchildren and her son Victor Garcia, the children's father, said she had just finished preparing lunch for Pricilla and Joshua when she decided to check on the pair. But because of the curtain she draws to trap the air when the air conditioner is on, she did not have a direct view of the outside pool, she said.

When Garcia went into the living room where she thought the children were, she said she noticed an open window out of which both grandchildren had climbed.

Joshua, 11, had run away before from the family's residence and his school, Garcia said. She showed the locked doors, nailed-in window sills and drawn curtains meant to prevent Joshua from breaking out.

But that Saturday Joshua opened and then climbed out a window and Pricilla, his frequent partner who loyally trailed her brother around Richmond Hil, played the same games and watched the same television shows, followed her brother into the family pool.

The grandmother said the family has lived in their house for almost three years.

She discovered that the children were missing a half hour after she had started to prepare lunch and said she called police when she noticed the children were not inside the house. She said she went up to Jamaica Avenue and then back down to Atlantic Avenue before realizing that the children could have gone into the backyard to go swimming.

It was there that she found her granddaughter floating upside down, arms outstretched, she said. Garcia said she tried but failed to revive Pricilla using CPR. Police and fire department officials quickly arrived on the scene following the 911 call from Garcia.

"I don't know what happened," the grandmother said, clutching a photo of Pricilla that reads "Julia is Happy."

"I want to die," she said.

Garcia speculated that Pricilla followed her brother, who was later found at Atlantic Avenue and 114th Street, into the pool. Joshua was tall enough to get out of the pool while his sister, standing about 3 feet tall, could not.

Less than two days after Pricilla's death, Joshua still could not comprehend that his sister had died. When Garcia asked him about his sister, he answered by saying, "Pricilla swimming, Pricilla water."

Garcia said she thinks Pricilla tried to escape but could not reach the side ladder on the pool to pull herself out. She is trying to piece together the events of that day by asking her grandson questions.

For now, the family has drained the pool that sits outside their home. No funeral arrangements have yet been made for Pricilla, her grandmother said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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