Two grieving fathers who lost children to wrenching deaths addressed Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday, asking for help in sparing others from their circumstances.
Chris Sloan lost his 7-year-old son to electrocution when the lighting system in his home pool malfunctioned, the water so charged that rescuers had to pull the boy out by his hair. Ramon Gonzalez lost his 27-year-old daughter to a murder, her body found crumpled in the trunk of her abandoned car in the Florida Keys as her estranged boyfriend fled police and then killed himself.
The fathers spoke separately, on different agenda items: Sloan on pool-safety rules, Gonzalez on police responsiveness to missing adults.
“Today is 28 days since Tanya went missing,” Gonzalez said of his deceased daughter, Tanya Gonzalez. “What can change your life? You’d be surprised.”
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Tanya Gonzalez went missing Sept. 9, and her father, a New Jersey resident, said he immediately knew something was wrong and that her ex-boyfriend, Roy Ruz Blanco, should be questioned. Gonzalez blamed Miami police for a slow response, not meeting him as promised when he flew in from New Jersey, not following up on the tidbits of information he said he turned up during his own amateur detective work.
Gonzalez described sleeping in a drug-store parking lot after an all-night hunt for his daughter’s missing car and tracking down an address for Blanco that he said the case’s Miami detective hadn’t discovered.
“I knew I was on my own,” he said.
Miami police handled the Gonzalez case, not the county’s police force. A city police spokesman was not immediately available for comment. On Tuesday, county commissioners agreed to consider the issue of better coordination for missing-persons cases in their committee system.
If commissioners mostly offered Gonzalez sympathy, the death of Calder Sloan a week after his seventh birthday prompted a change in county law Tuesday.
Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance requiring low-voltage lighting systems for new residential pools, though the rules would have no impact on the kind of existing home pool where Calder Sloan died.
High-wattage systems are already banned in commercial pools, and the low-wattage wiring is considered safer in case of a malfunction that electrifies the water. Sloan and his wife, Carla, are suing pool installers and other contractors and inspectors over their lighting system, saying faulty installation killed Calder. After his April 13 death, Calder became nationally known as “Mr. Awesome,” the nickname the boy put under a self-portrait he had drawn in crayon.
Chris Sloan told commissioners that his son loved swimming. “That pool was a second home to Calder,” he said.
Then Sloan described what he called his son’s last breath — a deep one before he dove below the surface to glide the length of the pool. Calder didn’t reach the other end. “He was thrown above the surface of the water in a scream of agony,” Sloan said. “Despite heroic efforts, his strong heart went into arrhythmia, and he was gone immediately.”