RIVERVIEW, Fla. - UPDATE: Dr. Deavers of the Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero died from an accidental drowning.
Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office were out again Tuesday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview where just the day before, an 11-year-old girl was found dead in a retention pond.
For students who left campus yesterday clinging to the hope that their classmate, 11 year-old Jenny Caballero, was still alive and just lost, the cold realization that she wouldn't be back was hard.
"And I want to just say that I'm sorry for this horrible situation," said Principal Sharon Tumicki. "And if you need to talk, just let your teachers know and we will have somebody talk with you."
As the morning announcements ended, and grief counselors descended on the campus, students stuck mostly to themselves, penning messages of condolence to the girl's family. But it soon became clear that the sadness was not the only emotion on display.
"Because our schools are a safe place," said Grief Counselor Patrick Caravan. "That's the way kids see it. Bad things don't typically happen at school."
Sheriff's detectives are conducting a thorough death investigation after the drowning Monday afternoon. A tragic accident that , at least to some, should have, or could have been prevented. Six adult aides were supposed to be watching Jenny and 19 other special needs kids, who were mainstreamed in a 140-person physical education class when she apparently just wandered off.
"We're letting law-enforcement do their investigation now," said Hillsborough Schools Spokesman Linda Cobbe. "We're not going to interfere with that. Once they're done, we will take what they've gathered and use that to learn lessons and make changes as necessary.
That's why our requests for names, employment histories background information, even job descriptions, on the aides and other staffers were not fulfilled today. The promise is that we will get that information as the investigations progress.
School officials wanted to stress that this is top of mind for them and the bottom line is that they're completely concerned: "We're wanting all the students and their parents to know that our top priority is their safety and we will do whatever we can to make sure this never happens again," said Cobbe.
"What if I were to tell you it happened last year?"
"I would not be aware of that."
And neither were we, until Michelle Blackwell told us about her son Mario Byrd, a seventh grader at Rodgers with cerebral palsy, who knew Jenny, and was rocked by yesterday's events.
"It's horrible," she told me. "You just can't get around sending your child to school and receiving a phone call we can't find your child."
"But you received a call like that last year?" I asked.
"And it was the same time," she said, "at P. E."
She says he was found about a half-hour later, in a bathroom, which leads her to question the commitment of the aides charged with helping the special needs students -- especially after Jenny drowned.
"It hit home," she said. "I'm kind of upset about it because they knew … incidents like this have occurred before."
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