Benjamin "Kamau" Hosch III, 5, was found dead at Cochran Mill Nature Center on Friday. (Credit: Family photo)

Day camp where 5-year-old died ordered to close, state says

A camp where a 5-year-old boy died Friday is unlicensed and state officials ordered it to close Monday.

Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mill Park is an unlicensed program that was unknown to the state of Georgia until Monday, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning spokesman Reg Griffin said.

“Our investigation today has confirmed that Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp at Cochran Mill Park was operating without a license or exemption from licensing,” Griffin said in an emailed statement. “Our agency is issuing a cease and desist order for the program. Our investigation into how the incident occurred is continuing.”

Ayisat Idris-Hosch, the mother of Benjamin "Kamau" Hosch III, was overcome with grief Monday as she talked about her son’s death.

“They robbed us of his life, his potential,” Idris-Hosch said during a news conference at her attorney’s office. “They took that from us and I am broken.”

Mother emotional talking about son. Video by Ellen Eldridge/AJC

Kamau and 12 other children at Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp were taken for lunch near a waterfall at the Cochran Mill Nature Center in Chattahoochee Hills on Friday, board member Steve Hurwitz said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Following lunch, the children were allowed to splash in a shallow adjacent creek,” Hurwitz said. 

When the group gathered to leave, adult supervisors realized Kamau was missing, Hurwitz said.

Chattahoochee Hills police officers were dispatched when the child was reported missing about 12:27 p.m., according to an incident report obtained by The AJC.

Fairburn police, Palmetto police and Chattahoochee Hills Fire Rescue assisted Chattahoochee Hills police in the search.

A volunteer found Kamau about 12:54 p.m. in a pool of water, Chattahoochee Hills City Manager Robert Rokovitz said. He was a short distance away from the creek in an area that had not been visited by the group, Hurwitz said.

Chattahoochee Hills fire officials administered CPR on Kamau, who was in cardiac arrest, according to the police report. He was taken by ambulance to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding. It was not immediately clear if he died en route to the hospital or at the hospital.

“As you can imagine,” Hurwitz said, “we are devastated by this tragedy.” 

Investigators with the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department have not said if the camp had been the subject of safety complaints in the past. However, Hurwitz said the camp has hosted thousands of children over the years “without incident except for minor scrapes, bumps and bruises,” Hurwitz said.

In 2016, more than 15,000 children visited, he said. 

He said Kamau’s death has left the center’s staff, board and volunteers “heartbroken and distraught.” 

The nature center is a nonprofit with a mission to help injured wild animals and provide educational tours and camps for children. 

During the news conference, Atlanta attorney L. Chris Stewart described the camp’s actions as an example of “gross, insane negligence.”

He said Kamau was allowed, without prior parental consent, to slide on the waterfall and swim. The boy could not swim.

Citing pending litigation, Hurwitz said the camp does not plan to make additional statements.

Benjamin "Kamau" Hosch III , 5, drowned at Cochran Mill Nature Center Friday. (Family photo via press conference)

“What happened to my son should not happen to anyone,” Idris-Hosch said. “No one should ever feel as broken, as cheated, as I feel right now. No one should ever have to go through this. They didn’t tell me what they were doing.”

Griffin said Georgia law allows for situations where a child care service can be exempt from state licensing requirements based on the ages of children, duration of the program, hours of operation, specific activities, or where services are offered free of charge. 

“It appears that Camp Cricket was neither licensed nor had it applied for and received exempt status from the state,” Griffin said. 

The investigation into the incident is ongoing.

“The investigator is still interviewing people and collecting additional data,” Rokovitz said.

OTHER COVERAGE: Authorities: Child’s drowning appears accidental

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.