WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The community is still searching for answers following the tragic loss of a young boy this weekend at a beach in Warwick.
Lifeguards are no longer on duty at Warwick City Park, where 6-year-old Ja-mir Ma’Kenzi Stewart apparently drowned on Sunday. Warwick city officials said there won’t be any lifeguards for the rest of the summer because of a shortage. This comes following questions from the community about what the lifeguards were doing when Ja-mir vanished.
Ja-mir would have been starting first grade in Providence in a few weeks, according to his maternal grandmother, Deirdre Isom. Eyewitness News sat down with Isom on Tuesday to talk about his life and how his family is coping with his loss.
“For me, the pain is beyond unbearable. So her being the mother, imagine if I feel like this, what does she feel like?” Isom said, speaking of her daughter Skyla Araujo, Ja-mir’s mother. His father is Wilbert Stewart, III.
“He would come home and sit at the top of those stairs waiting for me,” Isom said in the interview at her daughter’s home. “He would say, ‘Good Morning Nana!”
“My grandson’s never coming back here,” she said, looking around. “We can wish it, we can pray it,” she said. “But my grandson – whose name is Ja-Mir Ma’Kenzi Stewart – is never going to walk out that door…is never going to go to first grade.”
Isom said she spoke to Eyewitness News because she wants the world to know who Ja-mir was. She said he loved Batman and Legos, riding his bike, and building forts with his grandfathers. His 8-year-old brother was his best friend.
“Ja-mir was a very happy child,” Isom said. “Everything he did, he had a funny comment with it.”
Ja-mir died at Warwick City Park on Sunday, where police said he was reported missing by his mother. After about 20 minutes of searching, civilian Angel Soares found him underwater.
“I went down, I felt his leg, I grabbed him,” she told Eyewitness News on Monday. “And I pulled him out of the water.”
From the start, there has been backlash from eyewitnesses about whether the two city lifeguards on duty did everything they could. Soares insists that bystanders organized the search of the water while the lifeguards remained on the shore. Multiple beach goers made the same claims to Eyewitness News Sunday evening.
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said the lifeguards followed American Red Cross protocols, which included a visual inspection, clearing of the water, and human chain search in the water. The two college students had two and three years experience, respectively, as certified lifeguards.
Police say the situation is under investigation, and Mayor Avedisian said it was too soon to consider changing protocols before the investigation is complete.
“People had a job to do, that were paid to do it, that did not do it,” Isom said. It was the only comment she made about the lifeguards; she said she wanted to spend the interview talking about Ja-mir, and not the horrific event that ended his life.
Mayor Avedisian said those lifeguards were reassigned to administrative duties in the city. For that reason, and because of lifeguards going back to college, a spokesperson for the city said there would be no lifeguards on duty at City Park or Oakland Beach for the remainder of the season.
Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney said Tuesday a number of family members have been interviewed, but no conclusions have been made yet about the circumstances that led to Ja-mir’s death. A major question that remains is whether lifeguards or first responders knew Ja-mir might be in the water when the search began.