New report in summer camp drowning case shows other campers may have asked for help, were ignored

A newly released police report shows that other campers claim they called for help and may have been ignored.
Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 8:14 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Nearly seven months after a 6-year-old drowned at a St. Louis County summer camp, a newly released police report shows that other campers claim they called for help and may have been ignored.

In July 2022, TJ Mister drowned at a county-run day camp at the Kennedy Recreation Center.

News 4 Investigates obtained the nearly 50-page long investigative report from St. Louis County Police.

The report details statements given to police, including from two campers who claim they tried to get help.

The campers are minors, so their names and ages are not included in the publicly available report.

According to the detective who interviewed one of the girls, she said she saw TJ “having trouble” in the pool, and she told the head camp counselor. The report says the counselor told the girl that TJ “was fine.”

The police report says that a second girl claims she saw TJ struggling to keep his head above water and heard him call for help. According to the report, the girl claims she also told the head counselor. The report says that the head counselor told her that “he was fine.”

Police said another counselor pulled TJ from the pool.

Detectives also interviewed the head counselor. That part of the report does not mention any campers asking for help. According to the report, the head counselor said she saw another counselor pulling TJ from the pool.

News 4 Investigates learned through public records that there were about 50 kids and only one lifeguard at the summer camp that day, even though county policy requires at least two lifeguards.

Last month St. Louis County prosecutors decided not to charge anyone. That decision made the police investigation an open, public record.

The police report includes accounts from paramedics. Every responding EMT told police that when they got to the pool TJ did not have a pulse and was not breathing.

According to an investigation by a lifeguard certification company, a camp counselor and the lifeguard did CPR but did not use an AED on TJ despite having one.

TJ’s parents, Travone and Olga Mister, keep asking for answers about what happened.

“We just want the truth, like what happened, why did it happen, how did it happen and how do we prevent it from happening again because obviously it wasn’t right,” Olga Mister told News 4 Investigates during an interview last month. “He’s gone and he’s not coming back and no matter what we do he’s not coming back.”

The Misters hope lawmakers will pass a proposed bill that would require camps to be licensed like other childcare programs in the state.

The Misters also filed a $40 million civil lawsuit against the county.

News 4 Investigates continues to ask St. Louis County what it’s doing to ensure kids are safe at camp. News 4 reached out to St. Louis County for comment and is still waiting to hear back.