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Gainesville boy drowns at start of family's vacation in Florida Keys
Andrew Williams
Andrew Williams

KEY COLONY BEACH, Fla. — A family vacation in the Florida Keys turned tragic for a Gainesville family when a couple’s 3-year-old son died in a drowning in a canal shortly after they arrived at a rental vacation home.

Andrew Williams died on the evening of July 15 as a result of an accidental drowning, according to Dr. Michael Steckbauer, chief medical examiner for Monroe County in Florida.

The child apparently ran through a side yard that leads to a canal while parents Erica and Jeffrey Williams unpacked their truck in the driveway of the home on Key Colony Beach, according to a Monroe County Sheriff's report by Detective Rosa DiGiovanni.

The report states the mother went after the boy, but couldn't find him. She heard someone screaming about a child in the canal.

Rodney McKinney of Maryville, Missouri, who was also on vacation, jumped in the water and carried the boy to a dock. The boy's father tried to resuscitate his son, and deputies arriving on the scene said the father was “giving him breaths” when they arrived. The boy began breathing, but later died at a hospital, according to the report.

Pastor Earl Pirkle of Central Baptist Church in Gainesville said funeral services for Andrew were held last Thursday. The parents and Andrew were not active in the church, but “I knew his (Andrew’s) parents.”

“It’s just so devastating,” Pirkle said. “It was their first day on vacation. They’re just beginning the grieving process. They’re grieving so bad.”

The church provided a meal for the family last week and has continued to reach out to them, Pirkle said. He added that the church recently dealt with the loss of a 47-year-old brother of the associate pastor.

“It’s really affected the church,” Pirkle said of the two situations.

When contacted Monday by The Times, Leah Williams, Andrew’s aunt, declined to talk about the incident. A call to Jeffrey Williams was not returned at press time.