CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (PIX11) — Three young children died from apparent drowning early Monday in Coney Island, and a woman believed to be their mother was being questioned by police, according to the NYPD.
A girl, 4, and two boys, one 7 and the other as young as 3 months old, were rushed to the hospital after they were found laid out on the beach near West 35th Street around 4:40 a.m. with apparent signs of drowning, officials said. They were initially listed in critical condition, but all ultimately succumbed to their injuries, according to police.
Officials later identified them as Zachary Merdy, 7; Lilana Merdy, 4 and 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev. They all lived at the same address on Neptune Avenue.
A 30-year-old woman, presumed by police to be the children’s mother, had previously been found “soaking wet” and barefoot on the Riegelmann Boardwalk near Brighton 6th Street in Brighton Beach, some 2 miles away from the children, NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said during a briefing. The woman, whose identity was not immediately released and who had not been charged with a crime, was being questioned by police early Monday, authorities said.
Concern began around 1:40 a.m. when a family member called 911 and said that she worried that the woman may have harmed the three children, per the NYPD. Police rushed to the woman’s Neptune Avenue apartment to check on the family.
Officers found the apartment empty but unlocked. Though no one was in the apartment, police encountered a man in the building who identified himself as the father of one of the children and voiced similar fears that the woman might hurt them, police said.
Over the next 90 minutes, police scoured the area until they received another 911 call directing them to the boardwalk near Brighton 6th Street. There, they found the woman in the company of other family members, but not the children, officials said. The woman was described as barefoot and “soaking wet,” though it was noted that it was not immediately clear whether she had been in the water or was wet from rain that passed through the area overnight.
NYPD aviation and harbor units joined the intense search, ultimately finding the three children on the beach near West 35th Street. First responders attempted to revive the children and rushed them to an area hospital, but all succumbed to their injuries.
Police noted during the briefing that there was no immediate indication of prior abuse or neglect alleged against the woman. She was taken to an area police station for questioning, but was not immediately forthcoming, police said. She had not been charged with a crime as of Monday morning.
The NYPD asked anyone with information on the incident to contact investigators.