WRENTHAM — It was a large family gathering, a barbecue around the pool Saturday night, and the little boy was out of sight for no more than 10 minutes, police said.
He was pulled from the pool and family members were performing CPR on 1-year-old Angelo Nicoloro when first responders arrived and took over in a “heroic effort” to save the boy, Wrentham Police Chief Bill McGrath told reporters outside the police station Sunday morning, according to video by WCVB-TV NewsCenter 5.
Despite resuscitation efforts, the boy was pronounced dead later Saturday night at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, R.I. He was one of seven children, according to McGrath.
“It only takes a few seconds for a curious little child to take advantage of that opening when the pool was unattended and everyone else was somewhat distracted,” McGrath said at the news conference. “They see the opening, and their curiosity is overwhelming, and they get up there, and then tragedy happens.”
McGrath told reporters that the pool was “some distance” from the area where other family members were congregating at the home at 10 Hillside Drive. The pool was above ground, which made it difficult for family members to spot the boy once he went into the water, McGrath said.
McGrath said he went to the home Saturday evening and was with boy’s family into the early hours of the morning.
The family is “completely devastated,” he said. The boy’s mother repeatedly said, “He’s a saint now.”
“As she said, he’s praying for them now, not so much they’re praying for him,” McGrath said.
A man who answered the door Sunday afternoon at the two-story home with religious statues in front declined to comment.
A truly tragic story to report from Wrentham. Police have identified the 1 1/2 year old boy who drowned last night in his family’s back yard pool. A sad accident, not considered a suspicious death. The family asked we share these photos of Angelo Nicoloro. #WCVB pic.twitter.com/FrDc4lBgQs— Josh Brogadir (@JoshBrogadirTV) June 20, 2021
A statement from the office of Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said that the Massachusetts State Police and Wrentham Police Department are conducting an “ongoing” investigation, but the incident “does not appear to be suspicious.”
Crews from Bellingham Fire Department and Wrentham Fire Department also responded to the incident and assisted with resuscitation efforts.
“Everyone from Bellingham FD, Wrentham FD and Wrentham PD who responded to this incident did all they could to save little Angelo and then comfort his family as they attempted to deal with the unimaginable loss of their baby,” McGrath wrote in a post on Wrentham Police Department’s Facebook. “We who were there are all truly heartbroken.”
McGrath said at the news conference that such tragedies are unfortunately common.
“No one thinks it can happen to them, and that’s why no one’s judgmental,” he said. “Who hasn’t lost track of their little one for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute, and then found them behind the couch, or under the porch, or behind a tree.”
Drowning is the second most common cause of death for children ages 1 through 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health advises that an adult should be within an arm’s length at all times. Backyard pools pose the highest risk for children under the age of 5.
Children are often attracted to pools because of the flurry of fun activity that surrounds them, McGrath said.
“You have to put yourself into the mind of a little kid. He sees everyone having fun all day long in that pool. He associates that pool with fun. But every time he tries to get to it, because he’s so little, adults get in his way,” McGrath said. “The little kid doesn’t associate the danger.”
Even a momentary lapse in supervision can result in tragedy.
“If you have a pool in your backyard, treat it like it’s a fire pit that’s raging or a bonfire that’s raging, and you have to watch it every second,” he added. “You wouldn’t let your child near it.”
Less than a month ago, the Wrentham Police Department posted a water safety warning from McGrath on its Facebook that cited “the countless little ones who were filled with curiosity and paid the ultimate price.”
“A drowning occurs in seconds, but the tragedy and loss is a life sentence for the family and loved ones left behind,” the post read, imploring residents to put pool safety on their “priority list.”
The incident is the latest in a spate of similar tragedies around Massachusetts in recent months, and marks the third consecutive weekend marred by such an incident.
On June 4, a 14-year-old boy and a police officer who attempted to rescue him drowned in a pond in Worcester. The next day a 16-year-old boy died after he was rescued from a lake in Amesbury, a 17-year-old boy died after being pulled from a pool in Dedham during a graduation party, and a man drowned in pond in Plymouth. On June 6, a 19-year-old man died after he was pulled from the water at Mound Street Beach in Quincy.
On June 12, a 10-year-old girl was left in critical condition after a near-drowning in a swimming pool behind a home in Methuen.
“Family, friends, faith and community will help this great, close knit family in the days, months, years ahead,” McGrath wrote on WPD’s Facebook. “But, as Angelo’s devastated mom said last night, nothing will ever be the same. And that is the undisputed truth.”
Camille Caldera was a Globe intern in 2022.Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.