WARREN (Erie News Now) – Warren County Coroner Melissa Zydonik says the preliminary cause of death for a 2-year-old girl recovered from the Allegheny River near Tidioute on Sunday is accidental drowning.
According to Pennsylvania State Police investigators, the child, identified by her mother as Izzy Peterson, apparently fell into the rushing Allegheny River near her home on Saturday morning.
The child’s mother, Patti Vargason told Erie News Now that she was still asleep when Izzy and two of her other children ages 3 and 5 got out of the house, slipped through a gate and went to the river. She believes the gate may have been left open by two of her older kids.
Vargason said she knows the power of the river and she feels the judgement of others posting about the incident online. She said the series of events that led to Izzy’s tragic death “was a terrible accident and something she’ll have to live with forever.”
After search and rescue teams spent two days combing the water, state police investigators confirm that Izzy’s body was recovered in a debris pile along the river about a mile downstream from where they believe the child went in.
Bob North, Lifeguard Manager on Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park said the little girl’s death is a tragic reminder of how quickly things can turn deadly for small children if they’re left unsupervised around any body of water.
“We train our guards, if they can’t see a responsible adult or determine who that responsible adult is with that small child, they are to go down and see that child until they can match them up,” North said.
“The majority of our rescues would be a two-year-old, three-year-old, a toddler that falls right down at the water’s edge. And it’s extremely dangerous for someone who’s a non swimmer, so there needs to be an adult who’s responsible if they take that little step — and it doesn’t take much at all — to go from even in knee deep water, it can be very dangerous for someone small,” North added.
State police are continuing to investigate the incident. An autopsy was performed at the Erie County morgue on Monday.
Meantime the child’s mother and her father Jesse Peterson are planning little Izzy’s funeral in the same month that they celebrated her second birthday. It will be Friday for family and close friends only.