‘A very tragic accident’: Missing Toddler Found Dead in Submerged Septic Tank in Florida

Missing Toddler Found Dead in Submerged Septic Tank in Florida
Missing Toddler Found Dead in Submerged Septic Tank in Florida (Image: Screenshot/YouTube/NBC News)

Authorities said a Florida child who went missing Sunday while playing in his backyard was discovered motionless Monday afternoon in an overgrown drain field of a septic tank.

Jose Lara’s body was discovered shortly after 1 p.m. Monday near Crescent City, about 55 miles south of Jacksonville, according to Putnam County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Allison Waters Merritt.

Col. Joseph Wells, chief deputy for the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, said in a media briefing late Sunday afternoon that Jose was last seen around 1:15 p.m. playing with his sister and mom in the backyard of their residence along U.S. Highway 17.

The boy’s sister became dirty, and the mother went into the house to clean her up, but when she returned, she couldn’t find her son, according to Wells.

Putnam County Sheriff gives update on search for missing toddler

According to Wells, the mom called the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office after 30 minutes of looking and not discovering him.

Marion, Volusia, and St. Johns counties, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, launched an all-out search for the boy on Sunday afternoon.

Drones, a Volusia County Sheriff’s helicopter, and multiple K-9 units and bloodhounds were used in the search to track down the area behind the residence. The dogs tracking the property discovered a toy the boy was known to play with, but they were unable to locate the toddler, according to Wells.

Authorities began searching behind the house, which had some swampy areas and a pond, according to Waters Merritt.

The search was suspended at 11:45 p.m. Sunday and resumed at 7 a.m. Monday, according to Waters Merritt.

“The dogs continued to hit around the house indicating that the child had never left, so you know we continued to search,” Waters Merritt said on Monday afternoon.

During the search on Monday, investigators decided to drain a septic tank on the property, and when a contractor arrived and started working on the septic tank, an overgrown space was found nearby, according to Waters Merritt. Waters Merritt described the spot as having a piece of plywood over it that appeared to have been stepped on and broken.

“That was unfortunately where they did find Jose,” she said.

According to Putnam County Sheriff H. D. DeLoach, the septic tank’s drain field, where Jose’s body was discovered submerged, was approximately 35 yards from the residence.

The investigation into the matter is still ongoing, but authorities have found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to DeLoach.

“It just appears that it is a very tragic accident,” Waters Merritt said. “The family is understandably upset and our hearts go out to them.”



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