Grieving Liberty County mother plans to bury son and hopes for change

DAYTON, TX (KTRK) -- A Liberty County water park is dismantling its rides in the wake of a drowning of a two-year boy, the Texas Department of Insurance told ABC-13 Friday.

Also on Friday, Ted Oberg Investigates conducted an exclusive tear-choked interview with Bonnie Tarrant, the mother of toddler Londell Jermall Laveine Jr, who drowned July 25 at the popular Nine Mile Ranch water park in Dayton.

"I can't sleep. I keep seeing it over and over again, them pulling my baby out of the water," she said. "How scared he must of been when he was drowning."

The Liberty County Sheriff's Office concluded the death was a "tragic accident." It is the the second drowning at the water park in just over a year. A 35-year-old Huntsville man drowned there in July 2014.

And while the death of Laveine did not have to do with the rides, the Department of Insurance began an inquiry after being contacted by ABC-13. The department does not regulate water parks as a whole, only individual rides. But officials said Nine Mile Ranch was "not on the list of compliant organizations."

Water parks needs at least $1 million in liability insurance and the rides must be inspected by a reputable insurance company. The park must then send the state proof of insurance and proof of inspection.

"We were in communication with the water park today and we were informed that they have chosen to close down the equipment we were asking them about," department spokesman Jerry Hagins said. "They told us they are taking down the zipline and they're going to dismantle the slide."

They will need proof, though, according to Hagins.

"We asked for that to be submitted to us in writing with photographs," he said.

The park was closed Friday. Park owner Debra Persell did not return a call seeking comment but previously told ABC-13: "We didn't do anything wrong." She also said they require parents to have their children wear life jackets but insisted "I can't make parents do anything."

Persell also said the parents of the boy left him unattended.

Laveine was at the water park with four adults and five other children for a birthday party.

Tarrant says she'd just taken Laveine's floaties off so he could eat with the other kids next to the pond, which spans about four acres.

She walked away to take another child to the slide.

When she came back Laveine was gone.

"In a split second he disappeared," she said, crying. "There were people swimming all over the place. How did not one person see? I keep telling myself that God was calling him home and it wasn't meant for someone to see but I can't believe that out of all the people that were there no one saw him."

There are no lifeguards at the park and the park's owner's have a large signing making that clear, indicating that swimmers must do so at their own risk.

In addition to her grief, Tarrant said she has had to deal with people have said about her on social media.

One example, she said that people have claimed she and her son's father were drunk at the time the toddler went missing.

"We don't even drink," she said. "People say this and that, and this and this and that on the Internet. Horrible, horrible things."

She said she never wants another parent to go through this pain, but said she feels powerless.

"I want to save somebody from this," she said. "I don't know how. I'm just a little Subway worker. I don't have any money. But if I could I'd want to save every family's son or daughter from drowning."

A GoFundMe page has been established to help the family of the little boy with funeral expenses. If you are interested in learning more about how to donate, you can click here.

"Tomorrow is his birthday," Tarrant said. "He'd be three tomorrow. I have a cake ordered. I don't even know what I'm going to do with it."
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