The day after 1-year-old Wyatt Steed, of Palm Coast, died, it’s still hard for neighbors to fathom.
Authorities said he fell into a now-covered hole that had water in it in Ocala on Sunday. Authorities said he wandered away from his guardian during a walk on Sunday.
Sasha Kessler is a mother of four who lives nearby.
“It just scared me,” she said. “It could’ve been one of my kids. I’m praying for the family.”
The incident report released Monday said an evidence technician took photos and gathered evidence at the scene. The report says the hole wasn’t a sinkhole, but it was a septic tank.
Lauren Lettelier, spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Right now, we’re trying to determine how this opened up, what was the original problem, if it was there to begin with?”
Fox 35 asked the sheriff’s office in the wake of Wyatt’s death who is being held responsible?
Lettelier said, “This right now is being investigated all the way through. We’re trying to see if there is parties that can be held responsible, or if this is just a pure accident.”
The sherriff’s office said the responsibility to fix the hole falls on the property manager.
The President of Ellison Property Management, Dwayne Carlton, released this statement:
"Out of respect for the family we have no comment right now, other than our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
The health department in Marion County regulates and inspects septic tanks. Spokesman Craig Ackerman told Fox 35 there are zero complaints in the system about this septic tank going back at least 10 years. The last permit pulled for the tank was in 1997, when it was repaired, Ackerman said.
According to Ackerman, there is currently no system in place for regular inspection of septic systems. But if someone files a complaint, they will inspect it.
The health department doesn’t know how the hole opened up, but an inspector confirmed Monday afternoon that is was properly covered.
Ackerman said if a government agency decides there needs to be inspections at a certain frequency, a law would need to be passed either as a local ordinance or state law.
About the septic tank, Stacie Causey, Public Information Specialist for Marion County Office of Public Information, told Fox 35 on Monday that Marion County Growth Services shows no record of code enforcement inquiries where the incident took place.
“A code enforcement case was created for an inspection this [Monday] morning to make sure the situation was resolved,” Causey said. “In regard to repair of such systems, they are solely the responsibility of the property owner.”
Lettelier said as far as she knows, Ellison Property management and Wyatt’s guardian and parents are cooperating with deputies in this investigation. It’s still unclear if charges are pending.