NEW YORK >> A 2-year-old girl who wandered away from a holiday weekend family barbecue in a city park was found dead in a lake after a desperate five-hour search by police and bystanders.
New York Police Department divers pulled Ruhshona Kurbonova’s body from the murky water in Prospect Park on Saturday evening. The medical examiner’s office ruled her death an accidental drowning.
In the wake of the toddler’s death, officials offered condolences and safety advice.
“No parent should ever have to bury a child,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement calling her death tragic and urging adults to keep a cautious eye on children while enjoying summer activities. “We all have a part to play in promoting safe play conditions.”
Ruhshona’s family, emigrants from Uzbekistan, had been grilling kabobs when she and a preschool-age boy relative slipped away, her uncle Dekzod Isokov told the New York Post.
“They walked off, and we didn’t know,” he said. The boy was later found soaked, but safe, in bushes and woods near the lake.
Officers combed the 585-acre park from bicycles and helicopters and underwater as parkgoers lent what help they could.
“My whole church family was looking for this baby, and we were praying out here,” Shavonne Dillard, who was picnicking with members of her Pentecostal congregation, told reporters.
Ruhshona’s 37-year-old mother paced by the lake as the search progressed, Dillard said. “She was frantic,” Dillard said.
Witnesses said Ruhshona’s mother screamed and collapsed after hearing the news of her daughter’s death. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation and was later released.
The family immigrated to the U.S. in 2010, the girl’s uncle said; her father drives a taxi. The parents are hardworking and devoted to their four children, Zada Bacoj, the superintendent of their Brooklyn apartment building, told the Daily News.
Ruhshona was “a little angel,” Bacoj said. “What bigger heartbreak than this?”