SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Criminal charges are possible after a 5-year-old boy drowned at a South Fulton County summer camp.
The drowning happened Friday at the Cochran Mill Nature Center in Palmetto.
According to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the camp was not licensed but the department said in some cases camps don’t have to register with the state or get a license.
In a statement late Monday evening, the department said:
"Our investigation today has confirmed that Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mill Park was operating without a license or exemption from licensing. Our agency is issuing a cease and desist order for the program."
The boy’s family told Channel 2’s Lori Wilson that they are heartbroken after entrusting their son to the care of camp counselors.
“Never in a million years did I think that I would be standing here doing something like this,” mother Ayisat Idris Hosch said. “His brother was his best friend. He was his father’s shadow, and he was my heart.”
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Hosch is talking about her son Benjamin Kamau, 5. He died Friday while attending Camp Cricket at the Cochran Mill Nature Center.
Police said he was with a small group of children who took their lunch near a waterfall. It wasn’t until the group of 13 children and 4 adults got ready to head back to camp that they noticed Benjamin was missing.
“They robbed us of his life, of his potential. They took that from us and I am broken,” Hosch said.
A statement from the camp today said:
"The Board, Staff and Volunteers of the Cochran Mill Nature Center are heartbroken and distraught over this tragedy. On Friday, July 21, a group of 13 children attended day camp at Cochran Mill Nature Center. This small group of children, supervised by 4 adults, walked down a nearby trail for a lunch outing.
“Following lunch, the children were allowed to splash in a shallow adjacent creek.
“When the group gathered to leave the creek, the adults realized that one child was missing. The child was found a short distance away in a pool of water in an area that had not been visited by the group. CPR was administered and the child was transported by EMS to the hospital.
“Cochran Mill Nature Center has hosted summer camps and other outings for children of all ages for 23 years. The camps focus is on nature and the outdoors. Thousands of children have attended the camps over the years without incident except for minor scrapes, bumps and bruises.
“In 2016, over 15,000 children visited. Cochran Mill is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help injured wild animals and provide educational tours and camps for children. Please Note: According to Press reports, a lawsuit is being filed against the camp. The Board, Staff and Volunteers have been advised to submit no further comments at this time."
“Their negligence killed my son. They didn’t tell me what they were doing with my son,” Hosch said.
The mother said Benjamin couldn’t swim.
“Somebody’s got to pay for what happened. Someone has to be held responsible,” Hosch said. “I can’t go on. I have to live (with the fact) that I gave them money to kill my son, for the rest of my life. I paid them to kill my son."
In a statement to Channel 2 Action News, spokesman Reg Griffin wrote:
“Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mill Park is an unlicensed program that was unknown to the State of Georgia until the reporting of this tragic incident today. We are currently investigating this incident. Georgia law allows for situations where a child care service can be exempt from state licensing requirements based on the ages of children, duration of the program, hours of operation, specific activities, or where services are offered free of charge. It appears that Camp Cricket was neither licensed nor had it applied for and received exempt status from the state. Due to the pending investigation, that is all the information I have at this time.”
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