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February 24, 2010

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Owner of pool under detention after 5 children's bodies found

POLICE in Zhejiang Province have detained the owner of a commercial fish pond after the bodies of five missing children were retrieved from the facility.

Inadequate safety measures around the pond may have contributed to their deaths, Wang Xiejiao, a spokesman with the Tiantai County Public Security Bureau, told a press conference late yesterday.

"The pond has a guardrail on one side, but it's very easy to get into the water from the other side," Wang said.

The heartbroken parents of the missing children were desperately hanging out for good news, but it was not to be.

A four-day search by more than 200 police officers finally found the children's drowned bodies in the pond.

Police said autopsies performed on the children found no suspicious injuries.

Fluid in the children's lungs was a sign that the five were alive before they drowned in the pond, Wang said.

Police found fingerprints, palmprints and footprints on the 2-meter-deep pond's slippery rubber and plastic covered inner wall, which indicated struggles, said Jin Xianshun, an officer with the police bureau.

"We also found a downward palmprint and footprints on the bank, which suggests a child tried to rescue another child," Jin said.

The three girls and two boys, from two Xialuwang Village families, went missing last Thursday.

The bodies of Cai Kangni, Cai Danni, Cai Yani, Cai Binbin, and Cai Songtao, aged from 7 to 13, were found on Monday afternoon.

Except for 12-year-old Cai Yani, who attended a local school, all the children studied in northwest China's Gansu Province, where their parents worked.

They had returned home for the Spring Festival holiday.

The news was devastating for the two families, said Cai Xiutong, father of four of the five youngsters. His brother was the parent of the remaining child.

Cai Xiutong fainted after seeing the pale and swollen bodies on the banks after they were removed from the pond.

He said he was still keeping the news from the children's grandmother, who remained upbeat throughout the ordeal, confident police would find them unharmed.

He said he looked for the children near the pond several times after they went missing but saw no trace of them.

Pond employees also said they heard nothing when the tragedy took place.

Yao Guoxian, a worker at the pond, said she only found the body of a child because she discovered a drainage outlet was blocked by something.

Yao stuck a pole in the water to investigate the problem and fished out a boy's corpse.

Yao said she wept when police arrived and recovered the bodies as she knew the children well.

Wang said police had made funeral arrangements for the five children as the parents were too distraught to do so.


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