BRADENTON - A 5-year-old autistic girl drowned in a pond near her father's home Monday afternoon as a neighbor tried valiantly to save her.
Bradenton police say Kesia Kearse was reported missing at 1:16 p.m. from her father's home, where her mother brought her from Clearwater an hour earlier to spend the summer.
Police say Kesia was watching TV when she wandered out.
Neighbor Les Shetek spotted her splashing in a pond near the 4400 block of Ninth Avenue East, called 911 and jumped in to help.
"At first, I just saw her playing in the water," Shetek said. "By the time I looked back again she was all the way in the water, playing and splashing."
Shetek, however, began to realize that the girl was unable to swim, and jumped into the pond to attempt a rescue.
"I was running with the phone and then I just jumped in, swam over," said Shetek, fighting back tears. "But, ah, it just gets real deep. She held on but it gets cold. I found a stick but I just couldn't do it anymore. I ran out of breath."
Bradenton Fire Department and East Manatee Fire Rescue units were sent to the Braden River Lakes subdivision, according to officials.
The crews searched a pond near her home but did not locate the girl.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office dive team arrived and found her body at 2:43 p.m., the report said.