Were lifeguards on phones? Family wants answers in Miami Beach city employee’s drowning

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Family members of a Miami Beach city employee who drowned while helping to watch over an event at a popular public pool held a news conference Friday morning regarding his Aug. 16 death, demanding answers about what happened amid a great degree of speculation.

The family of 28-year-old Peniel “PJ” Janvier was joined by attorneys outside the pool he drowned in.

Janvier was a recreation leader for Miami Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department and lost his life in a drowning incident at the Scott Rakow Center.

The center is a popular facility on Miami Beach for people to exercise and use the pool, and in August, a place for summer camp.

According to Miami Beach Police, Janvier was a summer camp coach at the center. He was monitoring the kids in the pool during an end of summer pool event. He was observed in distress and after a while several coaches and lifeguards took him out of the pool, police said.

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At Friday’s news conference, attorneys said Janvier may have been at the bottom of the pool for as long as 20 minutes. Family members are demanding surveillance video, if it exists.

“There were lifeguards on duty. It was the last day of camp,” attorney Marc Bruner said. “There’s been so much talk on Facebook that there were 6-year-old boys and it was the last day of camp and (PJ) was coming back, giving love, saying goodbye and possibly he was pushed into the deep end and possibilities that the lifeguards are on their cell phones for a period of time that possibly these young children had to pull PJ out of the pool. What a horrible thing for this family to happen. What a horrible thing for the 6-year old boys.”

The City of Miami Beach released a statement after Janvier’s death, which read:

“PJ was an outstanding employee who truly left a lasting impact on everyone he worked with. His smile was contagious, and he cared deeply for the youth in our recreation programs. Miami Beach Police are actively investigating the events that led up to the drowning. In reviewing the circumstances with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, no criminal charges are expected.”

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A GoFundMe page has been created to help the family during the tragic time, and that page can be found by clicking here.

Miami Beach offered counseling to those affected by Janvier’s death, including a session on Thursday and an upcoming session on Wednesday afternoon at the youth center.

“Miami Beach Police are still investigating the events that led to the drowning and the City Manager has ordered an immediate procedural review. Discipline is being administered and the administrative procedural review is currently underground. The city’s Fire Chief is also independently reviewing all aspects of lifeguarding protocols at our recreational facilities,” city officials said in an email to those in its parks and recreation programs Wednesday.

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