News

Missing toddler drowns in Tapps

By Teresa Herriman

The Courier-Herald

The search for a missing toddler turned to tragedy July 13 when the child was found in Lake Tapps.

A Pierce County sheriff's deputy discovered the body of Gabriel Tobin 20 minutes after rescuers were called to the scene.

Tobin was pronounced dead at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital more than an hour after he walked away from Little Fishs (sic) Day Care on Inlet Island.

Police and rescue units arrived on the scene at 10:22 a.m. and immediately began a search of nearby homes and yards. A dive team was called to search the shoreline for the youngster, who had wandered away from his day care wearing only a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.

Neighbors reported hearing day care owner Lisa Fish calling for Gabriel just after 10 a.m. Fish has maintained an in-house, licensed day care since 2001.

"We've been walking around for an hour," neighbor Tara Ludlow said at the scene. Ludlow and her 4- and 2-year old children joined the search, walking the neighborhood and calling Gabriel's name.

Fish stood in front of her home as the police searched the area. She had earlier called Tobin's parents to inform them their child was missing.

The toddler was found under the dock of the lakeside home across the street from the day care. Rescuers had to tear up the dock to get to the child. Efforts to revive him were not successful.

According to East Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Packer, the youngster had exited through the front door while Fish was distracted by other children. There were no witnesses to the accident and there was no one at the home where the youngster was found.

This is the first time in recent memory a child has drowned in the lake. The last three accidents involved healthy teenagers, Packer said.

As of Monday morning, the Bonney Lake Police Department was wrapping up the investigation to determine the cause of death.

East Pierce Fire and Rescue, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office and the Bonney Lake Police Department marine unit participated in the search.

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